Icelandic: tense switch?

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Silver_Biscuit, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK

    Is it just me, or is this sentence kind of odd in terms of inconsistency with tense:
    So literally: "Icelanders have then recently gained (present perfect) sovereignty that the boy sealed (past) with a sexual liason with a Danish sailor and is (present) subsequently sent out of the country."

    The present tense at the end is bothering me, because it clearly refers to the boy who has literally just been doing something in the past tense. Eeeeh, is this OK in Icelandic for some reason I'm not aware of, or does this look like an oversight / bad editing to you? Because it is definitely weird as when I write it in English and I want it to say innsiglar rather than innsiglaði.

    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  2. Hjalti Member

    Yup. Seems wrong to me. Should start with: "Íslendingar höfðu..." and end with "og var í kjölfarið sendur úr landi".
  3. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Well because of the other sentences in the paragraph, I'm going to favour the present tense over the past, but glad to hear that you agree something's not right there :)
  4. Segorian Senior Member

    Icelandic & Swedish
    There is nothing wrong with the sentence. We are dealing here with the so-called historical present.

    Common in a number of languages, including English, the historical present is a device often described as being used for dramatic effect or to produce a sense of immediacy. However, it would seem that in this case, as in many others, it is used alongside the regular past tense to imitate the contrast betwen the aorist and imperfect tenses in ancient Greek. Thus, like the aorist, the historical present is used to refer to a single, non-continuous event (happening at one point in time: Icelanders gaining sovereignty/boy being dispatched abroad). The past tense, on the other hand, is used like the Greek imperfect to refer to a continuous event (lasting a certain amount of time: the sexual liaison).
  5. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Ah, OK, you can do that in Icelandic? Well it's too late now.

    I was well aware that the present bit was the historical present, since this particular novel takes place in 1918. However, you cannot mix the historical present and the past in one sentence like this in English so I would still have had to alter the tense.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014

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