Norwegian: lite melk i kjøleskapet - liten kapasitet i dag

serbianfan

Senior Member
British English
I've been thinking about the somewhat mysterious use of 'lite' and 'liten' with non-countable, non-neuter nouns. It seems that 'lite' dominates with concrete nouns (lite melk, lite mat, lite saft), whereas with abstract nouns, both 'lite' and 'liten' are used (lite(n) tid, lyst, kapasitet, tålmodighet). In this case, where the difference is only [n], I find it a bit difficult to think of what I and other people normally say. I'm pretty sure I and others would say 'det er lite melk igjen i kjøleskapet', but I'm not so sure about 'lite(n) tid' and 'lite(n) lyst'. I suppose 'liten' with these types of nouns is a bit more formal, because I'm sure I would write 'hun har liten tålmodighet med unger' and quite possibly also say it. To me, there doesn't really seem to be a difference in meaning, but maybe some people would feel that 'lite tålmodighet med unger' is slightly less patient than 'liten tålmodighet med unger'.
 
  • raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I always use 'lite' with all non-countable nouns, not 'liten'.

    Språkrådet says that both 'lite tid' and 'liten tid' are correct:
    Begge deler er mulig. Det er to litt ulike grammatiske konstruksjoner som i praksis betyr det samme: «Liten tid» har hankjønnsbøyning med -en i samsvar med kjønnet til «tid», og «Lite tid» har intetkjønnsbøyning, jf. «lite av tid» og adverbet «lite»
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    I can't argue against Språkrådet, but nevertheless: 'hun har liten tålmodighet med unger' does not sound quite right to me.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    some people would feel that 'lite tålmodighet med unger' is slightly less patient than 'liten tålmodighet med unger'.
    Is it then perhaps the difference in English between "little patience with children" and "a little patience with children"?

    "lite tålmodighet med unger" = "little patience with children" (stresses the lack of patience)
    e.g. "I get angry because I have little patience with children"

    "liten tålmodighet med unger" = "a little patience with children" (stresses the existence of some patience)
    e.g. "I don't get angry because I have a little patience with children"

    So the amount of patience in both cases might actually be the same, but the effect is different
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    I can't argue against Språkrådet, but nevertheless: 'hun har liten tålmodighet med unger' does not sound quite right to me.
    Very strange. I suppose the fact that you don't use 'liten' yourself with such words has affected your idea of what 'sounds right'. The n-gram for 'lite tålmodighet med' doesn't have a single example, the same for 'viser lite interesse for'. To take the second one, there seem to be more Google hits for 'viser liten interesse for' than for 'viser lite interesse for'. It seems to depend on the level of formality to some extent. The former are more often phrases like 'Regionale myndigheter viser liten interesse for' while the latter tend towards 'mannen min viser lite interesse for meg'.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Is it then perhaps the difference in English between "little patience with children" and "a little patience with children"?

    "lite tålmodighet med unger" = "little patience with children" (stresses the lack of patience)
    e.g. "I get angry because I have little patience with children"

    "liten tålmodighet med unger" = "a little patience with children" (stresses the existence of some patience)
    e.g. "I don't get angry because I have a little patience with children"

    So the amount of patience in both cases might actually be the same, but the effect is different
    I think you would say 'litt tålmodighet med unger' for 'a little patience with children'. As I said, I don't really feel there's a difference in meaning between 'liten tid/lyst/tålmodighet...' and 'lite tid/lyst/tålmodighet...', but I wondered whether some people do.

    The difference seems to be how formal the context is. I searched for 'har liten melk' on Google, and naturally enough didn't find any examples of 'vi har liten melk i kjøleskapet' but plenty in articles about breastfeeding, e.g. 'når mor har liten melk'.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I think you would say 'litt tålmodighet med unger' for 'a little patience with children'.
    Yes, I agree. "A little" = "litt".

    but plenty in articles about breastfeeding, e.g. 'når mor har liten melk'.
    "liten melk" is simply wrong. Some of these examples may be typos, but many seem to be either written by people who can't write correct Norwegian, or Google translations from other languages (many of these websites are Russian). For example, one of the Google hits is a Russian website with the heading "Laktasjonskrisen er ikke nok melk. Hva å gjøre? Hvis liten melk har en ammende mor hva de skal gjøre".

    However, "liten melk" is correct in one of the examples, where it is short for "liten melkekartong".

    So, I think your point from post #1 is basically correct: "liten" is wrong with concrete non-countable nouns (such as "melk"), but OK with abstract non-countable nouns (such as "tålmodighet").
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, that shows the dangers of reading too much into Google hits. I have also noticed a lot of Russian websites, though I didn't look closely this time. I certainly wouldn't say or write "en mor som har liten melk", etc.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Even the best of websites contain examples chosen to illustrate bad usage. The hit count for "det er liten melk i kjøleskapet" is ticking over even as I post this ;)
     
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