Norwegian: vi er ikke...

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Alxmrphi, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi all,

    Jens Stoltenberg just tweeted this: "Vi er ikke et større land enn at vi føler oss som en stor familie på dager som dette."
    It's regarding the Algerian hostage incident. I just wondering what it said and wanted to check it out here.
    Would this be a good translation: "We are not too big a country to not feel like one large family on days like these." - ?

  2. Havfruen Senior Member

    English - American
    Here's my attempt:

    We are not such a large country that we don't feel like one big family on days like this.

    awaiting native input :)
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    You have understood the sentence, but it represents an awful style, and should not be copied.
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi Ben,

    What is the part that is bad and is not to imitated? I have no sense of what is good or what is bad Norwegian so I'm not sure what part is the part that should be avoided.
  5. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Personally I don’t see a problem with the original sentence which includes a negative comparative form ('ikke større enn', 'no bigger than'), but it would result in a somewhat convoluted construction if we try to translate the entire sentence more directly, so I like your version Alx; I would just suggest changing the double negative in “we are not too big…… not feel like” into a (single) negative form, “we’re not too big a country to feel like one big/large family…”

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  6. NorwegianNYC

    NorwegianNYC Senior Member

    New York, NY, USA
    "We are not a country too big to see ourselves as one family on days like these"
    The original Norwegian also has a couple of idiomatic phrasings, such as "ikke større enn" and "føler oss som".
  7. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    It has a very complicated and obscure logical construction, difficult to follow, with a kind of double negation of comparison ("we are not a bigger") followed with "that + verb" (obscure connection). It's just not clear speech.
  8. myšlenka Senior Member

    Are you saying that the construction is both obscure and logical?
  9. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    No, my fault, I intended to say "logically obscure".
  10. myšlenka Senior Member

    Well, then I have a surprise for you. Logic is not a good model for natural language.

    The construction sounds perfectly natural in my ears. Please paraphrase it if you're unhappy with it.
  11. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Do you mean that we all can just speak illogically? Or that only politicians should do that? There is a large body of illogical and obscure statements like: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." or "Jeg har ikke sagt det før, men gjentar det gjerne".
    But I actually never called the sentence illogical, only logically obscure.
    Just have a look "we are not bigger than" means actually the same as "we are little enough". which is simpler and clearer. The sentence begins as a comparison "we are not bigger" and the normal way to continue is make a a comparison to something (than Sweden for example), but the speaker continues with a subclause as the object of comparison. This breaks the normal sequence of a comparison and establishes a doubious link between the size and the feeling of unity (not really existent, only postulated, which is a rhetorical hat trick).
    If I should paraphrase the sentence I would say simply: "Vi føler oss som en stor familie på dager som denne, kanskje fordi vi er så få her i landet."
  12. myšlenka Senior Member

    No, I was just saying that logic does not provide a good basis for natural language. Natural language works in its own way.
    Your first example has nothing to do with logic, but it was perhaps not the best way to put it. Your second example is clearly a contradiction and that's related to logic.
    They are not equivalents.
    Well, it's not really a comparison so it's not constructed that way. I don't see the problem with it and I don't see the problem with the prime minister being rhetorical. Pragmatically speaking, your paraphrasing is not even close to the original message.
  13. bicontinental Senior Member

    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Politicians are, of course, notorious for making statements that are self-contradictory, but I don’t think that the sentence by Stoltenberg falls into that category...his sentence follows a logical pattern in my view. As for the comparative expression, ‘ikke større enn’, it can be followed by a noun (e.g. ikke større enn Sverige, Danmark etc.) in a more direct and simple comparison, as Ben Jamin says above; but it is perfectly idiomatic to have it linked to a dependent clause through the formula, “ikke + comparative enn at + subject + verb”: “ikke større enn at vi føler”. I still see it as a comparison, but one with the object of comparison being implied rather than explicitly stated (please see examples below). I don’t know how common this construction is in everyday spoken Norwegian, since Ben Jamin seems to be questioning it. I can only say -for whatever it’s worth- that it is quite common in Danish:

    Kassen er ikke tungere end at jeg nemt selv kan bære den ~ kassen er ikke tungere end [en kasse jeg nemt selv kan bære]. The object of comparison is implied: than a box I can easily carry myself.

    Skolen lå ikke længere væk end at hun kunne cykle derhen på 5 minutter ~ skolen lå ikke længere væk end [en skole hun kunne cykle til på 5 min]. The implied object: a school I can bike to in 5 min.

    Vi er ikke et større land end at vi føler os som en stor familie på dage som denne ~ Vi er ikke et større land end [et land hvor vi føler os som én stor familie...] i.e. than a country in which we can feel like one big family.

    What do Norwegian speakers think about this? :)

  14. henbjo Member

    Valencia, Spain
    These constructions are definitely common in everyday spoken Norwegian. There is an implied limit that may be abstract or its exact value may be unknown, and you want to place something on either side of the limit. Bicontinental's examples are perfectly valid from my point of view, so I don't think there's any point in giving more.

    It may be difficult to follow at first, but there's no getting away from the fact that constructions like these are highly idiomatic and in common use. And when used in an abstract or metaphorical way, they do provide nuances that you don't necessarily get when paraphrasing.

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