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View Diary: ÍslensKos: The Icelandic Language, Or, What's So Scary About Super-Long Words? (109 comments)

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  •  now tell them about article-number-noun endings (8+ / 0-)

    Icelandic is the most declined European language. For example:

    I have a daughter and a son and a glass.
    I have two daughters and two sons and two glasses.
    I have three daughters and three sons and three glasses.
    I have four daughters and four sons and four glasses.

    Ég er með dóttur og son og gler.
    Ég hef tvær dætur og tvo syni og tvö glös.
    Ég hef þrjár dætur og þrjá sonu og þrjár glös.
    Ég hef fjórar dætur og fjóra syni og fjögur glös.

    Note that the numbers and nouns both decline -- different endings for the numbers depending on the gender, number, and case of the noun. Look at one-two-three for daughter compared to son compared to glass. And this is only one case (accusative).  Oh and, the articles or pronouns will jump around -- sometimes in front of the noun, sometimes after.

    Look what happens to both number and noun when you change case:

    I have three glasses
    I wrote names on three glasses

    Ég hef þrjú glös
    Ég skrifaði nöfn á þremur gleraugu

    I truly love Icelandic. It is so incredibly twisty.

    Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

    by greenery on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 05:48:23 PM PDT

    •  Hehe, my favorite is when matching pairs of (6+ / 0-)

      words don't take the same case.  For example:

      Ég man þig (I remember you - accusative)
      Ég gleymi þér (I forget you - dative)

      I mean, huh?  ;)

      One of the things that I get a laugh out of every time is when Icelanders can't agree on how to use the language.  And there's an increasingly common thing among some segments of youth of what's called "Þágufallssýki" - "Dative Sickness".  That is, there's a number of verbs where not only do you need to memorize what tense to use for the object, but the subject isn't in the nominative.  For example:

      "Mér (dative) finnst..." (I feel)
      "Mig (accusative) langar...." (I'd like)

      The overwhelming majority of verbs, obviously, use nominative for the subject - "ég."

      Well, apparently the dative forms are "cool" or something because some people like to use them where they don't belong, and they're starting to become common with some verbs - "mér hlakkar til", "mér langar", "mér vantar", etc.  It's a good way to make an Icelandic grammar teacher cringe  ;)

      Hehe, yeah, the jumping around takes some getting used to.  The one I'm having the most trouble getting used to is when people start the sentence with an adverb!  For example, "Rosalega er hún skemmtileg" (lit. "Extremely is she fun" instead of "She is extremely fun").  I also find it tricky knowing when to reverse word order due to the subjunctive.  And don't even get me started on adverbs!.  Lol.

      I'm not so sure about some of your examples above (á dætur, er með glös, gleraugu are eyeglasses, glös is not the plural of gler, , etc).  But yes, the declensions extremely complicated.  :)  For example, there's 120 forms of every adjective (compared to three in English), in about 10 patterns (compared to only one pattern in English: -, -er, -est), plus some exceptions (as in English, but more complicated).  But at least adjectives are more regular than nouns and verbs!

      To put it another way (for those reading this not that familiar with Icelandic), look at how grænn (green) changes....

      ... er grænn bíll (is a green car)
      ... er græni bíllinn (is the green car)
      ... með græn bíll (with a green car)
      ... með græna vél (with a green engine)
      ... með grænar vélar (with green engines)
      ... með grænt hjól (with a green bike)
      ... með græna hjól (with a greener bike)
      ... með eitt af grænustu hjóli (with one of the greenest bikes)
      ... með grænasta hjólið (with the greenest bike)

      Just to pick a couple examples.

      But trust me when I say that nouns and verbs are harder!  :)

      •  i know a smattering (7+ / 0-)

        of Finnish and Hungarian, and I have to say this is one of the greatest diaries I have ever read. If I wasn't a musician I would have been a linguist even though I had no desire until I moved to Berkeley and started hearing languages all around me.

        I used to read a Hungarian dictionary even though I had no idea of what most of it meant, I could still pick out patterns.

        For example, it appears the word for pear is perur and pearl is perlur? I wonder if there are other combinations where changing the spelling of the english word is identical to changing the spelling in Icelandic?

        I remember my Finnish friend telling me that in Finnish you have to decline? many parts of a sentence, her example was; if you want to say 'I left my book on the desk on the 152nd floor' in Finnish you have to say ' I left my book on the desk of the 100th, on the desk of the 50th, on the desk of the 2nd floor'. or something like that. This is so fascinating.

        They say Bobby Fischer learned Icelandic when he played his World Championship match in Iceland. I learned one word, skyr, some kind of ice cream dessert. Anyway, this bar I started going to was owned by some Icelandic guys and one day I asked if I could get a free beer if I knew some Icelandic. I said skyr and they were so shocked that I got free beer just for saying it all the time!

        Also there is a TV program about this guy that memorized 10,000 digits of pi and he described how he saw numbers as colorscapes in his mind. He took Icelandic lessons for a week then was interviewed on Icelandic TV, they said he spoke well.

        I am amazed how many words I could pick out that have latin roots; sol=sun, draum=dream,etc. Must have a common proto-European root or something.

        Lastly, I cannot believe I am a innipuki, how insulting!

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

        by GustavMahler on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 07:50:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the nice words. :) (5+ / 0-)

          And the nominative singular form of pearl is "perla".  "Perlur" is the nominative and accusative plural.

          Haha, that's an awesome story about the bar.  Bet you could have really blown them away if you had started talking in full sentences with them.  There was a case a while back of a guy in... I think it was the former Soviet state of Georgia, who on his own taught himself fluent Icelandic, having never been to Iceland but wanting to translate things.  It actually made some news in Iceland and he ultimately ended up getting offered a free trip to Iceland, free lodgings, etc.  ;)

          People here are getting more and more used to foreigners speaking Icelandic, but it's still the exception, not the rule.  Most native English speakers who move to Iceland never bother, and even a lot of non-native English speakers who move here still just rely on their English.  I even know an Icelandic woman whose daughter doesn't speak Icelandic.  No kidding!  She and her then-husband got divorced when her daughter was very young, and while she saw her daughter regularly, the daughter grew up in the US with the father, never learned Icelandic, and while she's lived in Iceland for several years now, she's never bothered to learn the language.  Her mother has tried to get her too, but she's too shy to use it and not willing to put forth the effort to study it, and all her friends just talk English with her.

          And outside of Iceland?  You pretty much never find people who speak Icelandic unless you specifically set out to meet them on purpose.

          Now, don't let that trick you into thinking that everyone in Iceland is a bunch of pasty-faced white folk - far from it.  It's actually surprisingly diverse.  For example, I think I mentioned in some comment in some thread somewhere, the first person I met when moving onto my street was a little black girl, who spoke only Icelandic, having grown up here and not yet being old enough to start to learn English.

          Note that actually sól is the new word for sun; the older word for sun, which can be seen in some compounds like sunnudagur (sunday) is "sunna".  Which should also look familiar.  "Moon" changed too, from "máni" to "tungl".  I don't know why.  Speaking of days of the week, I find it funny that in English we use days of the week mostly derived from the names of Norse gods, while here in Iceland, where people and streets actually are named after Norse gods and a small percent of the population still even worships them, the days of the week are not.

          •  Worship Norse gods.... (1+ / 0-)
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            We take for granted the Christians' Sunday wafer-cannibalism, so this can't be any more far-out. Or can it?

            What an idea!

            On a different tack, what does Icelandic do about cases, per se? A zillion? Or relatively few like English?

            Since nouns are declined for any reason that seems to have come to mind, it sounds like this could be a language with 5,000,000 words in common use.

            You'd study hard, get that last set of ablative qualifiers down pat on your 94th birthday, then forget the middle 4,687,000 word-items in a snap! The-perfect-great-cleansing-moment.

            (Lovely, lovely diary. An example of why I come to dkos instead of the benighted-huff-poo.)

            •  I see the comment about cases was (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bontemps2012, Kimbeaux, FarWestGirl

              answered to your satisfaction below, so just for the rest.  Yep, a couple percent of the population still worships the old gods, and there's even an official revived old norse paganism church (Ásatrúarfélagið) to which nearly one percent of the population is officially enrolled in.  Paganism in general is in the ballpark of 10% of the population.  And even among non-pagans there's still a lot of belief in old pagan concepts like the álfur / huldufólk (elves / hidden people).  About 10-15% are absolutely convinced they exist and a little over half willing to consider their existence.  Now, most people these days don't think that they're actual physical beings running around; it's more like the Japanese concept of kami, that places in nature can have a spirit and they don't like being f'ed with.

              Note that Iceland also has one of the highest percentages of atheists and agnostics in the world, too.  And while a majority are still Christian, it's a very liberal, live-and-let-live Christianity - it's important to them in their personal lives, but they usually don't feel the need to push it on other people (at least not like in America).  For example, I've not once seen a single Jesus-fish or Jesus bumper sticker - I'm not sure there's one in the whole country.  Christians here generally also do not reject science (world's highest rate of acceptance of evolution, for example) or reject other people for their lifestyles / beliefs / attitudes (for example, gay pride is one of the largest annual festivals in Iceland, with a third of the population attending).

              Again, to reiterate, that doesn't mean that there's no pushy Christians, or no bigotry.  And remember that there's a state church (although 75% of the population wants to change that, so it'll probably change some time in the next decade, probably sooner rather than later) and the official national anthem is a hymn (although it's not a very popular song here - actually saw a standup comedian making fun of it last Friday).  But this sort of stuff comes from an earlier time, when religion exerted a more dominant influence on the country than it does today.

              BTW, back to Ásatrúarfélagið - in case you ever want to attend, they welcome outsiders to their ceremonies, especially the blót feasts.  :)

      •  Old English has some of those verbs (3+ / 0-)
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        ozsea1, bontemps2012, FarWestGirl

        I forget if you call them dative verbs or impersonal verbs or something like that. Some of them still exist.

        In Old English (OE), they'd say things like, "it thinks to me" or "it likes to me" or "it dreams to me" or "it seems to me." If you look at Shakespeare, he often used "methinks," which is the dative/impersonal. I suspect the "it so happens... " construction might also be in this category.

        But the angle said to them, "Do not be Alfred. A sailor has been born to you"

        by Dbug on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 07:53:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep - (3+ / 0-)
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          bluedust, Dbug, FarWestGirl

          translation of "mér finnst".  :)  Not everything takes the nominative!  Unfortunately, some people love trying to make even things that don't belong take the dative as the subject, lol.

          The language is definitely not static, and unfortunately its rate of change seems to be accelerating.  At least it's resisted the influx of loanwords better than most languages.  You know, for example, French gets credit for having official "French" words for stuff... but in terms of actual usage, people in Iceland really do use the Icelandic-origin words when they're available and widely understood; there's a sort of social pressure to do so.  When tablet computers first became available, for example, everyone was calling them tablets.  But then there was a big push in the media that, no, they should be spjaldtölvur... and now if you go to a computer store, they're actually called spjaldtölvur and that's what people buying them will refer to them as.  And even when it comes to official words, Icelandic is excellent at language preservation. for example, in French, telephone is "téléphone".  In Icelandic, it's "sími", from an old word for line or thread.

          That's not to say that foreign words haven't made their way in - far from it.  "Okei" (okay) is ubiquitous, of course.  One that grates on my ears when I hear people use it is "basically".  Icelandic has perfectly adequate words and phrases for basically, like "eiginlega" and "í grunninn" and "í rauninni" and "í grundvallaratriði" and so forth, depending on context.  I do find it curious how the loanwords shift a bit in meaning, though.  For example, "okei" usually has more of an implication of "oh really?"  And loan verbs almost always get an -a tacked onto the end and then are declined in weak declension and even have their stems bent according to Icelandic declension rules.  Loan nouns are generally declined as neuter or undeclined at first, but if they resemble a weak masculine or feminine declension, they may eventually start to be declined that way.

          But still, the language is changing.  One change that a teacher I know was talking about at one point is the slow loss of the -i in the dative singular of masculine nouns.  Some nouns have lost it entirely - for example, to say "returning the car" you always say "að skila bílnum" instead of "að skila bílinum".  Some other nouns are in various stages of losing it.  This represents a small step in a sort of flattening of the declensions (making the dative more like the accusative), which I hope doesn't continue.  Because as difficult as Icelandic is, I love its historic nature and would hate to see it just turn into another degenerate Indo-European language. Plus, the declensions actually provide useful information to help clarify sentences.

    •  I don't think it's the most declined, (4+ / 0-)

      or even in the running.  Icelandic has only four cases compared to e.g. Polish and Czech (seven), Finnish (fifteen!) and I'm not even touching the craziness of Hungarian, which has the standard set of cases and genders and numbers plus personal and possessive suffixes.  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 07:48:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A former Estonian girlfriend showed me declination (5+ / 0-)

        15 or 16 cases!

        It's fun walking through Helsinki or Tallinn or Budapest and see these monsterously long words in the window for something that would be 6-7 letters long in English.

        "now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." W. Churchill

        by Thor Heyerdahl on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 11:49:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, in terms of noun cases, Icelandic is pretty (4+ / 0-)

        low.  On the other hand,  declensions of both nouns and adjectives change whether or not the definitive article is attached, there's 120 declension forms of adjectives, and verbs are a special hell   ;)  Also, Icelandic is famous for its declensions being "bendy" and irregular.  It's not just endings (which is basically the same as a postposition) like declensions in a lot of languages.  The stem itself often changes in all sorts of crazy ways.  For example, cat:





        That's not an irregular noun - it's actually a whole declension pattern.  And for all nouns and verbs there's stuff like the u-ö shift.

        •  Though to be fair... (1+ / 0-)
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          there's no real distinction between "pattern" and "exception".  For example, the above "pattern" probably represents about 10-15 base words, and there's probably 100 or so compounds that end with such a base word and are thus declined as such.  At what point of rarity do you declare something to no longer be a pattern and be an exception?  There's no clear line in Icelandic.

          Let's show how blurry it gets.  Do you group örn (eagle) with that pattern, or is it its own thing?  That's örn, örn, erni, arnar / ernir, erni, örnum, arna || örninn, örninn, erninum, arnarins / ernirnir, ernina, örnunum, arnanna.   Okay, then do you group, for example, björn (bear) with the same big group, or is it it's own thing, or is it a group with örn?  That is, björn, björn, birni, bjarnar / birnir, birni, björnum, bjarna || björninn, björninn, birninum, bjarnarins / birnirnir, birnina, björnunum, bjarnanna.

          And then you start getting into patterns that have some characteristics of one declension but then other characteristics of a totally different one!  That's especially common in verbs; they're sort of mix-and-match.

          It's kind of hard to categorize Icelandic noun and verbs sometimes.  It's easy with the big groups but then it gets harder and harder with no clear cutoffs.

        •  Answered my question, above. (1+ / 0-)
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          Of course.

        •  Yeah, but that's how other inflected languages (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          work, too.  I was just responding to the comment above - it sounded strange (because I speak a few inflected languages) to hear that claim made about Icelandic, and I looked it up, and it's not the case. (pun!)

          Hungarian I think takes the cake for most needlessly complicated grammar, and I doff my cap to people who can speak it with anything like fluency.  Some of these languages have a few alternate case endings that are more aesthetic than strictly grammatical, which for non-native speakers, can be a real pain.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:17:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hmm, I just picked a couple random Hungarian (1+ / 0-)
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            declension tables and they don't bend the stem at all - it just appears to be suffixes.  What languages are you thinking of that have significant stem-bending in declension?

            I took Latin in high school, and it had very little stem bending.  The only non-irregular case I remember is the pattern of rex/regis - and one could just argue that the x/g is part of the suffix, there's no deep-stem changes like in Icelandic.  The entire stem can get twisted - for example,  For example, nominative-singular-strong-noncomparative-masculine of "pressurized" is "þjappaður".  The same but dative is "þjöppuðum".  And that's not an exception, either.

            Anyway, there's "only" sixteen forms of each noun (and half of those are usually fairly easy to form if you know the other half), but there's 120 for adjectives, and for verbs, it depends on what you count as a form, but it's quite sizeable.  And they're just so danged irregular!  :Þ.  At least for adjectives, the 120 aren't usually too hard and there's not too high of a rate of exceptions  - the main challenge is just memorizing the differences between the 10 or so patterns.

            When it comes to noun genders, it could be worse.  I hear that there's no way to recognize gender in German, for example.  Icelandic has three genders, and you can only kind-of deduce them.  You can basically get a probability matrix out of looking at an unknown word if you know what to look for.  Nominative ends in -a?  Easy one - Over 99% chance it's weak feminine.  Ends in -i?  Hmm, 70% chance it's weak masculine, 30% chance it's strong neuter.  But if it's something like "hótel" that you've never seen before?  Haha, good luck.  If it doesn't fit into any obvious rules and there's no obvious suffix, odds are probably 20% it's strong masculine, 35% that it's strong feminine, and 45% that it's strong neuter. .  

            Also, even once you know the gender, if it's not weak and it's not neuter, that's not enough to know how to decline it.  You need to know at a minimum the genitive singular ending and the nominative plural ending.  You also need to know if it's an exception (of which there are tons) or fits one of the dozens of rarer declension patterns.  For strong masculine, common exceptions (or sshould they be called patterns?) is the loss of the -i in the dative singular.  For strong feminine, the equivalent common irregularity is -na in the genitive plural instead of -a.

            Only once you know all that can you accurately decline it.

            •  Not sure how much experience you have (0+ / 0-)

              in other contemporary inflected languages, but stem-bending (?) happens all over the Slavic languages, for sure.  The Russian for "child" (дитя, nominative) morphs into two separate stems (for a total of three), дит- -> дитят- and деть- in oblique and plural cases; it's part of the template of nouns most of which describe young animals, including children (heh).   Czech has a set of words whose stem not only changes, but is declined either as an adjective or as a noun depending on ...  well, I'm not exactly sure when or why one or the other is used (týž or tentýž -> touž or tutéž, etc.)  These aren't irregulars but paradigmatic.  

              Ditto with gender: both languages have three, both have certain 'typical' signals, and both have deep slates of words that are entirely unrecognizable as any particular gender... you just have to "know".  Throw numbers into the mix and sheer chaos results.  In Russian, if you're looking at "three beautiful women", "three" is accusative singular, "beautiful" is genitive plural, and "women" is genitive singular, so literally none of the words share a common declension pattern, despite being a single phrase.   This is only the case in the numbers 2, 3, and 4, because anything higher has a different set of declensions, and anytime a large number ends in 1 (e.g. 1,001) the whole number is treated as a singular instead of a small or large plural.   Bah.

              Anyway.  I'm not questioning the beautiful complexity of Icelandic, and you've written quite a good diary about it.  But it's certainly not the most inflected European language.  

              For what it's worth, it's probably Basque.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 10:39:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Other languages (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I also speak some Japanese, which doesn't do stem-bendings for any form of word.  And there's obviously English too  ;)  The only nouns I can come up with in English with stem bendings are archaic words with rare plurals, like brother -> brethren, and one common exception: man->men.  Now, English has strong verbs, which use a single stem-bend of a single vowel to form the past tense - for example, run -> ran, sit -> sat, dig -> dug, etc.  Of course, Icelandic strong verbs have three separate vowel stem bends plus the universal u-umlaut rule plus you need to memorize two suffix patterns and the past participle for each  ;)  There are some rules for strong vowel stem bends, but they're so complicated and so full of exceptions, they don't really help much.  It's always nice to learn that a new verb you're learning is weak, or at least one of the -ti, -di, or -ði past pattern verbs.  :)  A looooot less to memorize for it.

                Not trying to argue that Icelandic is the hardest  :)  Just describing it.

                I'm curious about the Russian stem shifts.  I looked it up and the only example I saw of it was the one you gave, with a difference between singular and plural for child.  A grammar page I found told me that "hard nouns" add -ы and "soft nouns" replace their nominative suffix according to a couple specific rules, but none of them involved stem morphs.  But дитя is not an exception?

                Hmm, interesting abount bending a noun as an adjecctive - how does that work?  Like, what would be the adjective form of "spoon" mean - "spoon-ish"?  Icelandic lets you bend verbs as adjectives (analogous to, run -> running), so that adds the 120 adjective forms to each verb.  Thankfully not every adjective-bending pattern is represented among verbs!  :)  The past participle (which you have to memorize) forms the basis of the adjective bending (in fact, the literal Icelandic translation of the word for past particple is "adjectivemood of past"

                Funny the thing about low numbers in indoeuropean languages being declined but high numbers not.  In Iceclandic, it's 1-4 that are declined.  For cardinal numbers of things that aren't "pairs" (they get their own set, as do cardinal numbers), there's 12 forms (okay, well, there's 24 for "1", but that's special).  But 5-19 are undeclined (after that, it depends on what singles-digit it ends in).  There's actually a joke here about an immigrant going into a store trying to buy four of something who keeps guessing at what form of "four" to use, to the confusion of the shopowner, until finally giving up and buying five of it  ;)

                •  дитя isn't an exception: (1+ / 0-)
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                  It's the same paradigm is котенок, where the stem morphs to котенк- for singular oblique cases and котят- for plural declensions.  Like I said, most of the nouns in this paradigm refer to young animals.

                  Not sure how it works in Hungarian per se, but Russian does 'bend' nouns into adjectives: e.g. the stem for "milk" is молок- (noun) -> молочн- (adj).  As for verbs to adjectives: from the infinitive читать (to read) -> the stems читающ- ([who] is reading), читавш- ([who] was reading), читаем- ([which] is being read), (про)читанн- ([which] was being read), plus all the attendant declensions of each, and the thankfully non-declinable читая for the adverbial participle.  Thankfully Russian has only three tenses and two moods, so the simple verbs themselves aren't that bad, but their system of describing motion is ridiculously complex and difficult for non-native speakers: directional/aspectual prefix plus directional/frequentive verb stem plus whatever conjugation you need.  So: prefix у- means to depart, stem идти normally means to go in a single direction on foot with an imperfective aspect, but the combination turns it into a perfective stem, and it's irregular anyway, giving us уйд- for "[someone] will depart on foot".  There is no verb for just plain "go".  Of all the things I've taught, no single topic creates more headaches for students, though it turns out to be hugely efficient (look how short that stem is compared to the translation!)

                  Comparatives are weird, because they have far more than the English three (adj, comparative, superlative).  For the adjective "beautiful" (красив-):

                  enhanced: прекрасив-
                  comparative: более красив-, красивее
                  superlative: самый красив-, красивейш-, наикрасивейш-
                  comparative superlative: более наикрасивейш-
                  superlative superlative: самый наикрасивейш-

                  Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                  by pico on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:58:23 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Haha, that's great (0+ / 0-)

                    This is why I love learning languages; there's so many different ways to express things and different peoples have come up with all sorts of neat approaches.  Neat about the comparatives and directions (the latter I assume only applies to verbs of motion).

                    One of the things that Icelandic has that I understand is rare is the "middle voice".  That is to say, there's active voice (subject does something to object) and passive voice (object does something to subject), but with the middle voice, both subject and object are mutually doing the action.  So, for example, a common way to say goodbye is "sjáumst" or "sjáumst seinna".  "Sjá" is "to see", and "sjáumst" is the middle-voice third person plural indicative.  It's literally "[We] [will] see each other (later)".

                    I still don't get the concept of forming adjectives from nouns.  Seems to me to get an adjective from a noun you also need an implicit passive verb.  That is, what is the adjective form of "spoon"?  Well, you could have something that "looks" like a spoon, "tastes" like a spoon, "scoops" like a spoon, "shines" like a spoon, etc.  But how would you do that generically?  Making adjectives from verbs is easy, because the implicit noun needed is simply "one".  "One who jumps" -> "jumping" -> "jumping spider".  "One who burns" -> "burning" -> "burning tree".  Etc.  The same sort of thing like the English -ing construction is done in Icelandic, except of course there's 120 forms of the adjective and you have to know the past participle.

                    But adjectives from nouns without a verb?  I don't get that concept.  What's the implicit verb?

                    Also there's the issue of getting nouns from verbs, but that's a whole different story!  :)

                    Also, would you mind explaining how that stem morph in Russian works and how it's not an exception?  Like I said, I looked up a page that said how to form Russian plurals and they didn't mention stem morphs, so clearly it wasn't nearly comprehensive enough of a page.  :)  Maybe if it's not an exception  then it's a pattern or something, and they just didn't go into patterns?  You've got me curious. Icelandic, too, has some stem-morphing pluralization patterns beyond the universal stem-bending rules like the u-umlaut rule - Js showing up or disappearing, rotating stem vowel patterns like ö-ö-e/i-a:e/i-e/i-ö-a, and so forth.


                    •  There are at least three (that I know of) (0+ / 0-)

                      paradigms in Russian declension that involve stem morphs.  I wouldn't call them exceptions because they're not: it's one thing if a word or two follows the pattern, but we're talking categories of words.  The example I gave you holds true for (among others) ребенок, котенок, медвежонок, цыпленок, ягненок, гусенок, индюшонок, козленок, олененок, etc. etc. and the slightly irregular дитя, which otherwise follows the pattern.   At what point is this no longer an exception but a bona fide paradigm?  And it's a productive category (meaning the paradigmatic stem can be  used to create new words as well.)

                      Other stem-changing paradigms: words like гражданин- which have a variable infix -ин- that disappears in plural cases (so you get stem variants like северянин-/северян-).  This category deals with nouns referring to types of people, and involves a large list of words as well.   And another, albeit smaller paradigm for all the neuter nouns that end in -мя, where oblique cases involve a stem shift from -мя -> -мен-, words like имя (name), время (time), etc.  

                      I haven't included all the nouns whose stems end in consonant clusters, so the oblique cases sometimes add vowels for pronunciation purposes.   It's not a genuine stem shift in the way you're describing it (it has to do with the language's medieval roots), but it's plenty common to see things like окно -> окон, бабушка -> бабушек, etc.  

                      I don't understand the question about making adjectives from nouns.  Why do you need a verb in there?  In English we tend to use the nouns themselves as modifiers (i.e. "milk chocolate", milk is a modifier), but Russian requires an adjectival form here, so they just create one out of the noun: молоко -> молочный, etc.

                      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                      by pico on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 11:53:24 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Adjectives from nouns? Spoony! (0+ / 0-)
    •  I take it from your examples (0+ / 0-)

      that Icelandic doesn't have an indefinite article (e.g. Ég er með dóttur og son og gler). Or is it one of those things that "just depends"?

      You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children's children what it was once like in America when 25% of the population was batshit insane.

      by Omir the Storyteller on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 09:36:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What's this word "declined"? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pale Jenova

      Is that for suffixes?  I thought the term was "inflection" when verbs changed for subject, numbers or tense, or nouns changed for gender or number.

      My suggestion: Mandarin.  They don't do any of that shit.  

      "The one big advantage to being a boring candidate is that you give the appearance of calm and stability. But, suddenly, Romney seemed to want to go for a piquant mélange of dull and hotheaded."-- Gail Collins

      by Inland on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:48:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are correct about Mandarin grammar (0+ / 0-)

        Very easy. Their alphabet--or rather, the lack thereof--made me want to polka my eyes out.

        And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

        by Pale Jenova on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:00:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, in Icelandic, it's all called "bending" :) (0+ / 0-)

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