People became politicians who had never been politicians before (position of relative clause)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Kotlas, Oct 4, 2017.

  1. Kotlas Senior Member

    Russian - Russia
    "People became politicians who had never been politicians before."

    Greetings everyone!

    In English, a relative clause follows the noun it modifies. However, in this phrase taken from an Arnold Bennett story, we see that the clause follows politicians but modifies people. If we observe the rule and change the phrase accordingly (People who had never been politicians before became politicians.), it will sound somewhat clumsy.

    One may argue that the clause modifies politicians, and so the rule is fully observed. That's a possibility, too, but to me it's a bit of a stretch.

    I would like to know how you would express this idea in your languages. Can you separate a relative clause from the noun it modifies? In Russian, the word order is flexible, and we can render the given phrase in different ways, but, in each of them, the clause will have to follow the word it modifies, i.e. the word people in this case.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  2. ilocas2 Banned

    In Czech it's not possible to say it that way like in English.
  3. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    That hardly would be grammatical, would it? It simply makes the sentence unprojective, and in English, where word order is almost the only thing which glues the words together, it is hardly acceptable.
  4. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
  5. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    The Greek version is:
    «Έγιναν πολιτικοί όσοι δεν ήταν ποτέ πολιτικοί*» [ˈeʝinan politiˈci ˈosi ðen ˈitan poˈte politiˈci] --> (people/they) became (aorist 3rd p. pl.) politicians those (3rd p. pl. relative pronoun) (who) were never politicians

    *It employs double negative construction to express negation: "were not never politicians"
  6. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    In Chinese:
    [relative clause] [] [noun] [...]
    People became politicians who had never been politicians before

    Such kind of "relative clause" is called 定语从句 "attributive clause" in Chinese. It must be put before the noun it describes, with a 的 in the middle to connect them.
  7. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    This applies to all Slavic languages, right? How about the Romance languages, and Germanic languages other than English?
  8. Dymn

    Dymn Senior Member

    I've found this structure in the Hungarian Duolingo which seems to be the norm for relative clauses in that language:

    azoz a könyvek drágák, amelyek híresek
    Gloss: these the books expensive, which famous
    "These books that are famous are expensive"

    Note Hungarian is a zero copula language under some contexts.

    This sounds very weird in Catalan and Spanish. Maybe someone who didn't think out what they're going to say could drop it, but it's not natural.
  9. Yendred Senior Member

    Français - France
    In French, if you say "Les gens sont devenus des politiciens qui n'avaient jamais été politiciens auparavant", the relative clause necessarily refers to the last noun (des politiciens).

    If you want to express the particular structure you mention and refer to the first noun (les gens), you would use a coordinate clause linked with "et":
    "Les gens sont devenus des politiciens et n'avaient jamais été politiciens auparavant"

    In this case, the sentence sets a symmetry between the two verbal clauses "sont devenus des politiciens" and "n'avaient jamais été politiciens auparavant" making them both refer to "les gens".
  10. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    I have to note that refers only to the finite clause. A participle phrase, regardless of how long and complicated it is, may both precede and follow the noun it modifies.
  11. j-p-c Senior Member

    It seems to me there's a more concise French equivalent to the OP's phrase (one that avoids repetitions):

    "Des gens qui n'avaient jamais été politiciens le sont devenus."
  12. Perseas Senior Member

    Since, in English a relative clause follows the noun it modifies, would this be a more idiomatic way to phrase that sentence: "Polticians became people who had never been politicians before."?

    An alternative would be "Έγιναν(Became) πολιτικοί(politicians) άνθρωποι(people) που(who) δεν ήταν ποτέ πολιτικοί".
  13. anahiseri

    anahiseri Senior Member

    Valencia, Spain
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    In Spanish you have to put it this way, directly after que corresponding noun:
    Personas que nunca habían sido políticos antes se convirtieron en políticos.

    otherwise the meaning would change.

    Same in German:
    Menschen, die nie Politiker gewesen waren, wurden su Politikern.
  14. Dymn

    Dymn Senior Member

    I was thinking about this and my idea is that this construction appears in English because the word order is rigidly SVO and if the head of the subject and the verb are too far apart it might sound clumsy. On the other hand in Romance languages word order is much more flexible and the most natural way to put this would be by placing the verb first:

    Es va convertir (V) en polítics (O) gent que no ho havia estat mai (S).

    I've replaced the "politicians" in the subordinate clause because this repetition is unnecessary and unnatural.

    Today I came across this example, which may clear things up:

    When you click the **Knit** button a document will be generated that includes both content as well as the output of any embedded R code chunks within the document.

    My translation to Catalan:
    Quan cliqueu el botó **Knit**, es generarà un document que inclourà tant el contingut com la sortida de qualsevol chunk de codi R incrustat dins del document.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2019
  15. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    The grammatical structure sounds okay, just the sentence sounds weird. It can be improved.

    People became politicians who had not been involved/interested in politics before.

    People, previously uninterested in politics, sudden became politicians.

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