Two grammar questions ...

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by EinBlauerHai, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    Hello again, everyone!

    I've only recently begun studying Czech. It's probably a little too early for me to be wondering about the finer points of Czech grammar, but I've got an inquisitive mind :)

    I know there are many adjectives that function as nouns (e.g. příbuzný, vedoucí, vstupné). But I'm wondering whether any adjective can function as a noun, as in German, or if only certain adjectives can, as in English.

    My second question concerns participles. I know Czech and English both allow simple participle modifiers (e.g. the cigarette-smoking woman), but does Czech also allow more complex forms? For example, could you see a Czech phrase similar to:

    "The terribly under-financed-by-the-federal-government Department of Veteran Affairs"

    Or would you have to say the equivalent of: "The Department of Veteran Affairs, which is terribly under-financed by the federal government"?

    The complex construction is common in written German, and it sometimes shows up in written English, but is it even possible in Czech? And, if so, how common are complex modifiers like these?
  2. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    Well, you can use many adjectives as nouns simply the way you do not mention any actual nouns following them... Such an adjective is often preceeded by an appropriate form of pronoun "ten"

    Well... here comes the problem about the finer points of grammar when you do not know the basics... Czech has intricate system of cases that allows some acrobacy in the word order. But in this case I somehow doubt such a construction is correct in English (at least stylistically... but try to say it aloud, does it make any sense?)... you do not need to stuff all those words *before* the noun, just place it behind:)
    "The Department of VA, terribly under-financed by the federal government" and no need for hyphens.
    The same applies for Czech:
    "Ministerstvo pro záležitosti veteránů, mimořádně nedostatečně financované federální vládou"
    "Federální vládou mimořádně nedostatečně financované ministerstvo pro..." (the first option is more natural)
    There is no need for such a monstrous compound (which is not a actually a compound).
  3. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    Would you say many or most adjectives can be used this way?

    The construction doesn't violate any rules of English grammar, but you're right in that it's stylistically questionable, to say the least :lol: But that doesn't mean you'll never read something like it ... especially online. And, in German, it's actually considered high-style. Mark Twain famously railed against this kind of front-loading in his essay 'The Awful German Language'.

    I wonder what Twain would have thought about Czech. It makes German grammar feel like tinker-toys :shock:

    Anyway, thanks for the info, Eleshar!
  4. Wicker808

    Wicker808 Well-Known Member

    EinBlauerHai, Eleshar,

    I think you're confusing two separate phenomena.

    First, is using an adjective to refer to a substantive antecedent. In English you can accomplish this by using the form "the x one," where x is an adjective. Just as in English, in Czech you can do this with any adjective.

    Mám rád vsechny koně, ale ten hnědý se mi zvlášť líbí.
    I like all the horses, but I especially like the brown one.

    Second, is the use of words that are semantically substantives, but follow a declension model of adjectives. Many of these words may also be used as adjectives, but not all words that are morphologically adjectival may be used as substantives. EinBlauherHai provided some examples of words that can. Also in this category are spolubydlící, vrátný, školné. Most of these words probably originated as words of the first type, above, but gradually lost the need to have an antecedent: vedoucí is probably a shortened form of vedoucí pracovník.

    Despite taking adjectival endings, though, these words are nouns, and have a gender that does not agree with any antecedent. Vedoucí, of course, can be male or female according to the real gender of the person, but školné and vstupné are always neuter.

    I hesitate to compare Czech and English morphology, but the closest comparison you'll find in English are substantives with suffixes traditionally belonging to a class of modifier, such as:

    They're selling some wonderful collectibles.
    You have to remove the exponential before integrating.

    Just as collectible may be used as a substantive, as above, or as a modifier, vedoucí may be a substantive (meaning team leader), or as an adjective (meaning leading).
  5. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    Thanks for the further clarification, Wicker!

    From what you're saying, Czech seems to work much the same as German when it comes to adjectivals acting as nouns (or nouns being treated as adjectives).

    Two adjectival to substantive transformations are possible in German:

    1.) From true adjectives

    Take the adjective 'gut' (good). You can say, for example: ein Guter (a good man), eine Gute (a good woman), or das Gute (the good thing/one).

    2.) From participle-derived adjectivals

    Anstellen = To hire


    Angestellt = hired (e.g. die angestellte Person = the hired person)


    Der Angestellte = The employee (male)
    Die Angestellte = The employee (female)
    Ein Angestellter = An employee (male)
    Eine Angestellte = An employee (female)
  6. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    I like to think of English as a language quite intolerant of front-loading, stylistically. Long and complex stretches of circumstantial information tend to be placed at the end of clauses and noun phrases in English. German is quite the opposite, it loves front-heavy phrases and even attributes a high status to them.

    And Czech, well, I'd say Czech is somewhere between the two. It's certainly more tolerant of front-loading than English, but not as much as German. Czech students learning German tend to struggle with the convoluted nature of German sentences, just like Mark Twain. So Mark Twain would probably have found Czech less awful than German.
  7. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Without doubts!

    The Germanlike frontloading is common in Czech administrative and journalist style, but our constructions are typically simpler (the von-construction in Czech is a misery).

    In common Czech we use sometimes (rather Frenchlike) backloading, but most common is a subordinate clause (dům, který… ~ das Haus, das…).

    architektem nově postavený dům = das von Architekten neu gebaute Haus (administrative style)

    dům nově postavený architektem = das von Architekten neu gebaute Haus (common style)
  8. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    American English is not as averse to this style as some other varieties :)

    I see!

    Front-loading doesn't need to be ridiculously complex, of course. And it can be useful in creating adjectivals where none exist (or none are sufficient). For example, let's say I were a very religious person and wished to decry the revealing clothing preferred by many teen girls. The word 'revealing' doesn't express my moral outrage sufficiently. So, in English, I might use 'body-boasting' or 'form-flaunting'. In German, 'den Körper zur Schau stellend' would work quite nicely, despite being a skosh more wordy than the English examples. Back-loading such constructions could prove awkward depending on how exactly my sentence is formed. For example: "the form-flaunting attire of the modern youth is an offense against high-holy God" is more appropriate than "the attire of the modern youth, which flaunts their forms, is an offense against high-holy God!"

    I take it that Czech can be as equally unforgiving of awkward clauses.

    I'd never heard the term 'transgressive' used linguistically before I started studying Czech :) The example you give, lebend, I would categorize as being a present participle turned adjectival, as per type 2. But then I'm certainly not a professional linguist ...

    Thanks for the examples!

    And thanks to everyone for indulging my grammatical curiosity :lol:
  9. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    And I’m not expert on German :wink:, possibly you are right about German terminology, transgressives are mostly considered to be a kind of participles (and participles are, in fact, adjectives).
  10. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    I know, I tried to be concise.

    I do not think so... Sure it can be written and it is understandable due to the hyphens all over the word but try to say it aloud... it does not sound very good. There is no real way to indicate the hyphens in intonation in English, so it has to be postponed.

    I know the essay. By the way... you see?:) He railed against it because it was very difficult for him to understand as in English this does not exist :wink:

    And yes, I wonder too what would he write after tryingto learn Czech :twisted:
  11. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    This! :twisted:

    (and a related thread :wink:)
  12. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    Well, it was an extreme example :lol: And when such constructions are used, the intent is to sound humorously hyper-rhetorical.

    Of course, German is clearly more flexible in this regard than English. Yet and still, English allows some leeway here -- at least informally. Generally, the whole question of 'what can I front-load safely' can be avoided by using simple two-part compounds. For example: 'architect-designed' would be used instead of the more German-esque 'designed-by-an-architect'.

    I'm still curious about the extent to which subordinate clauses are preferred in Czech over adjectival modifiers. How, for example, would you translate the sentence I came up with earlier: "the form-flaunting attire of the modern youth is an offense against God!" In English, as I said, a subordinate clause would be awkward here: "the attire of the modern youth, which flaunts their forms, is an offense against God!"

    For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with such clothing myself :twisted: It's just a good example sentence for when front-loading is more natural in English ...
  13. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Front-loading in English creates more stress. It makes the point stronger, as in the first example:

    "The terribly under-financed-by-the-federal-government Department of Veteran Affairs"

    It's as if that is the official name. It takes it from describing it to calling it. Instead of describing it as a clause behind the name, you are saying that is what it is. It simply drives the point home in a more graphic way.
  14. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    This is fun, let me have a go:

    Nestydaté, tělo vystavující oblékání dnešní mládeže je urážka vůči pánubohu.

    The subject is quite heavy at the front but I think it's still comprehensible, even at first reading.
  15. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    I would automatically write “tělo vystavující” as one word “tělovystavující”.

    I suppose the comma is a typo, there should be two commas or none at all.
  16. EinBlauerHai

    EinBlauerHai Active Member

    Thanks, MBM :)

    Would it be possible to use tělovystavující as a noun in the same way vedoucí is used? If so, would it sound unnatural or awkward?
  17. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    There are no typos in what I've written, just ignorance ;-)
  18. mbm

    mbm Well-Known Member

    Theoretically, in principle, yes. It is certainly well-formed and a good candidate for a nominalized adjective. It's just that nobody seems to have a need for such a noun (surprise, surprise).
  19. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    It is uncommon for infrequent phrases. But the way is admissible, see e.g.

    stavbyvedoucí = r Bauführer/Bauleiter (literally rather “r Bauführende”)

    Excluding the idiomatic phrases, it sounds literarily or even archaic.

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