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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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    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

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      •  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

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        •  Adjectives from nouns? Spoony! (0+ / 0-)

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