Swedish: Det tas kontakter

kfz2010

Senior Member
Chinese
In the following sentence:

"Det tas kontakter med stora industrier, gymnasieskolor har även kommit i fokus och högskolor och universitet, säger Morell."

Why there are two subjects here, "det" and "kontakter"?

Thanks.
 
  • MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I'm not good at expressing language using proper terminology, but I think you're looking at it the wrong way. I don't think they're both subjects, the second is a set verb phrase: (Att) "Ta kontakt". Unfortunately I couldn't tell you why we sometimes use "ta kontakt" and sometimes "kontakta", but either way it isn't a subject.

    And to clarify:

    "Contacts" can be nouns. "He's my contact in Amsterdam" for example. But it's also a verb - "I contacted my friend in Amsterdam." You could even say "I contacted my contact in Amsterdam". Same in Swedish.

    "Det tas kontakter med"
    "Contacts are made with.." or "Contacts are established with" etc.
     

    kfz2010

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks Mattias.

    As said, it is "contacts are made with...", that corresponds to "tas kontakter med" I think, but there is the additional "Det", so the question would be, why do we need the "det" here? And what function does it play in the sentence?
     
    This question is at the heart of good Swedish syntax, and it deserves an elaborate answer. Putting it briefly, we say and write Det tas kontakter med stora industrier because it sounds better. Impersonal constructions like this are very common in Swedish.

    It is perfectly correct to say Kontakter tas med stora industrier, but it sounds stilted. Similarly, for "A bird is sitting in the tree", we say Det sitter en fågel i trädet. One would not expect to hear the correct but unusual sentence En fågel sitter i trädet.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    This question is at the heart of good Swedish syntax, and it deserves an elaborate answer. Putting it briefly, we say and write Det tas kontakter med stora industrier because it sounds better. Impersonal constructions like this are very common in Swedish.

    It is perfectly correct to say Kontakter tas med stora industrier, but it sounds stilted. Similarly, for "A bird is sitting in the tree", we say Det sitter en fågel i trädet. One would not expect to hear the correct but unusual sentence En fågel sitter i trädet.

    Yeah, curious....

    "Det bjuds på tårta ser jag!"
    "Det sägs att gräddtårta är bra för musklerna..."

    etc... (damn I'm hungry)...
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    [...] but there is the additional "Det", so the question would be, why do we need the "det" here? And what function does it play in the sentence?
    I think "det" here is a "dummy pronoun", similar to "it" in English. See: Dummy pronoun - Wikipedia
    Just to add to AutumnOwl's correct observation that we are dealing with a dummy pronoun here, the function of the additional det is that of the syntactic subject. In Swedish, all sentences (with the exception of imperatives) need to have a pronounced subject and that position is usually filled by the noun that expresses who/what is performing the act described by the verb. If that noun is missing for whatever reason, we need something else to fill the subject position of the sentence. This can be done by moving the object of the verb (and possibly the indirect object) to the subject position, but it can also be filled with a dummy subject det. Typical types of constructions where this is an option are:
    - in a subset of intransitive verbs such as komma, försvinna, sjunka etc where what we usually think of as the subject, is more object-like.
    - in passive phrases (like the sentence in the OP). Some other examples are given by MattiasNYC in #6.
    - weather verbs like snöa, regna, blåsa etc.
    It is a dummy subject, not dummy pronoun. There is no such thing as dummy pronoun.
    Ontological claims about what exists and what doesn't exist will obviously depend on the level of analysis. Pronouns exist so why not dummy pronouns? Although I prefer the term dummy subject in this case because we are dealing with a syntactic requirement in Swedish, the term dummy pronoun (though equally valid for the case at hand) may serve in a more general discussion about non-referential pronouns regardless of their syntactic position.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ontological claims about what exists and what doesn't exist will obviously depend on the level of analysis. Pronouns exist so why not dummy pronouns? Although I prefer the term dummy subject in this case because we are dealing with a syntactic requirement in Swedish, the term dummy pronoun (though equally valid for the case at hand) may serve in a more general discussion about non-referential pronouns regardless of their syntactic position.
    Can you give an example of a dummy pronoun, not related to the syntactic position?
     

    Segorian

    Senior Member
    Icelandic & Swedish
    Can you give an example of a dummy pronoun, not related to the syntactic position?
    Dummy subject is the term I'm used to, but the label dummy pronoun is useful if we admit that such a pronoun can also have the role of object, for example in phrases such as She's made it as a singer! or Get it?
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Can you give an example of a dummy pronoun, not related to the syntactic position?
    I did not make any claims about dummy pronouns not being related to a syntactic position. In a sentence, they will naturally occupy some syntactic position, but insisting that they are necessarily dummy subjects misses what Segorian points out in 10#:
    Dummy subject is the term I'm used to, but the label dummy pronoun is useful if we admit that such a pronoun can also have the role of object, for example in phrases such as She's made it as a singer! or Get it?
    And to add some examples from Swedish where the bolded pronoun can be classified as a dummy pronoun:
    Hur har du det?
    Vi tog det lugnt.

    (I hope it works in Swedish. If not, Norwegian will point to the same thing).
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    What makes these promouns "dummy"?
    Is there a point you want to make or are you just curious? To find an answer to your question, you can read the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry in the link provided by AutumnOwl in #5. But then, we will have gone full circle as this was precisely what you seemed to take issue with in #7.
     

    Segorian

    Senior Member
    Icelandic & Swedish
    What makes these promouns "dummy"?
    Only, I believe, the fact that they are used as dummy subjects in these particular instances. I can see the logic in resisting the label “dummy pronoun” on the grounds that the words in question have no characteristics or properties that make them “dummy” per se. A dummy pronoun is only dummy insofar as it is used as a dummy subject. (And now I won't be able to use the word dummy for a while.)
     
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