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Thread: Confusing Syntax!!

  1. #1
    Подающий надежды оратор Nichole.'s Avatar
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    Confusing Syntax!!

    Okay, so I'm reading the "New Penguin Russian Course for Beginners" (on my 2nd reading by the way) and I'm still confused about the word order.

    It says that new information and/or emphazised information is placed last in the sentence. Thing is, when it comes to more complicated sentences, how do you know what is the emphasized or new information is?

    For instance, "My favorite color is cerulean because it reminds me of the tropical blue sky."

    What is the new or emphasized info?

    I know that I'm going ahead quite a bit, but how am I supposed to form normal sentences?

    Can anyone help?

    Спасибо!
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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    And what's hard about it?

    Split the sentence into two parts: main and additional:
    [My favorite color is cerulean] [because it reminds me of the tropical blue sky].

    That said and according to that rule we get:
    Мой любимый цвет - лазурный, потому что он напоминает мне о голубом небе в тропиках.
    Лазурный - мой любимый цвет, потому что bla bla bla. (Cerulean is my favorite color ...)

    I underlined the emphasized information.
    And btw imagine that you emphasize the word with voice when pronouncing the sentence. Like fast and casual мой любимый цвет and then strong and clear лазУрный and then again fast and dull потому что он напоминает... (for the 1st variant).
    Another month ends. All targets met. All systems working. All customers satisfied. All staff eagerly enthusiastic. All pigs fed and ready to fly.

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    Подающий надежды оратор Nichole.'s Avatar
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    Still confusing.

    You can't split all sentences in that manner, and what if your tone doesn't really change as you speak?
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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    So you wanna get a general clue for all the possible cases?
    It'll be slightly different for different types of sentences, or maybe for some particular cases, which you'll just have to pick up and rememeber.
    But there will ALWAYS be the main part of the sentence, because it must exist!
    And something at the end of the main part still represents the thing you wanna emphasize. It's true for both our languages, like: "I have a car" means that you have a car, but not a bed , and I am hungry does emphasize or report that you're hungry. Pay attention, the spicy info is still at the end of the phrase, no matter, whether there is an additional part with some explanations/comments, or it's not.

    So when composing a sentence in Russian, the first thing you should think of is "Ummm... How to not forget to put the main info to the end of the main part of the sentence.... " Joking... Just talk in Russian and get some practice, you'll get it right away after the first conversation....

    Maybe this example will clarify the thing for you:
    Like a companion on business going through a trouble is asking other his partner of what he has done for eliminating the trouble:

    Что ты сделал, чтобы выпутаться из ситуации?
    It emphasizes the сделал (done) word... Like what actions have you taken?
    And:
    Что сделал ты, to come out of the difficulty?
    Sounds like "What have personally YOU done to get out of it?"
    Another month ends. All targets met. All systems working. All customers satisfied. All staff eagerly enthusiastic. All pigs fed and ready to fly.

  5. #5
    Подающий надежды оратор Nichole.'s Avatar
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    But Russian has so many ways to form a sentence that it's not always the same. Sometimes when I translate Russian back into English, keeping the Russian structure the same, it looks like Yoda wrote it because the words are so mixed up.

    So from what I've seen, even if I do, do it that way like you said, it won't always be exactly the same. Make sense?

    For some reason, in longer sentences (especially when they are written and not spoken), I can't tell what the dialogue is emphasizing or when the dialogue is "new".

    If only Russian could stick to one word order... that would be way easier.
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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    If only Russian could stick to one word order... that would be way easier.
    Yup. But it seems thought up so brainscrewing with intention, so the only thing left for you is to learn rules and make some friends from Russia on ICQ or whatever.

    And don't keep the structure the same, cause it's a way to nowhere. The languages are different, and their structures are quite different too. Keep that in mind always and you'll be there. I wish you knew how clumsy look English phrases translated into Russian directly (using the same structure)... .

    it won't always be exactly the same
    Yep. Things may be stressed with voice rather than with structure. Or with some other means, like hidden meaning or hidden or explicit emotions, which may sometimes invoke another structure or something like that. But the general/neutral structure is mostly the same. And it is described in the rule.

    And btw don't be so conscious about what's new there in the phrase or something. Think like I've gotten the meaning and it's okay, moving on.... Good luck.
    Another month ends. All targets met. All systems working. All customers satisfied. All staff eagerly enthusiastic. All pigs fed and ready to fly.

  7. #7
    Завсегдатай
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    In some cases the difference in meaning that different word order ensures is very subtle and many native speakers don't even notice it consciously (that's why it can be hard to explain). But sometimes it's rather straightforward.

    For example:
    Мой брат съел яблоко.
    Яблоко съел мой брат.
    Мой брат яблоко съел.

    All of them mean "My brother ate an/the apple". Different word order does not change the meaning, but it changes what we can read between the lines, the things that are hinted at or implied.

    Мой брат съел яблоко - My brother ate an apple (not a pear or anything else).
    Яблоко съел мой брат - It's my brother who ate an apple (not my sister or my friend)
    Мой брат яблоко съел - My brother ate an apple (he ate it, he did not throw it out or gave away).

    But I think you should not be too worried about "wrong" word order if you are a beginner. While speaking you can always "correct" it (so to speak) empasizing important parts of the sentence with your voice.

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    Yep, the word order in Russian is often a problem of style, not of the grammar. So you can leave it until you feel free with Russian. For the beginners there is a rule that "word order in Russian is free." Relatively free. Grammatical relations between words are expressed by inflections (cases, conjugations etc.) rather then by the word order.

    Also keep in mind that in a spoken speech word order often is not important at all because one can use intonation. Word order tricks are used in literary speech to replace the loss of intonation.
    "Россия для русских" - это неправильно. Остальные-то чем лучше?

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    Ok, I was not attentive when I read the first post, so my previous message does not help. I see that simple phrases are not the problem.
    You can't split all sentences in that manner,
    You can and you should. Complex sentences often consist of two, or even more simple sentences, separated from each other with a comma. So when you notice, that a Russian phrase has more than one subject+predicate construction, treat it as a few different sentences packed in one.

    When you are unsure what word order is better to use, stick to the standard - "Subject - predicate - time, place or conditions". It sounds ok in most cases.
    For example, "Я ходил в кино вчера вечером, а сегодня пойду в театр" is perfectly fine, even if a "fancy" word order in this complex sentence could be "Вчера вечером я ходил в кино, а сегодня пойду в театр".

  10. #10
    Почтенный гражданин bitpicker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nichole. View Post
    But Russian has so many ways to form a sentence that it's not always the same. Sometimes when I translate Russian back into English, keeping the Russian structure the same, it looks like Yoda wrote it because the words are so mixed up.
    That is just because English has to stick to a very rigid sentence structure in order to make the roles clear. It has no case system, so it needs a placement system. You can't turn "the dog bites the man" around without changing the meaning: "the man bites the dog". But in languages with a case system, you can. And because you can, giving special significance to certain options of word order is possible.

    For some reason, in longer sentences (especially when they are written and not spoken), I can't tell what the dialogue is emphasizing or when the dialogue is "new".
    But you have given the rule yourself: the emphasized element is the last one. Put what you want to emphasize at the end. Notice in sentences you read or hear what is at the end. That's where the emphasis is. If you were learning German, which also has a working case system, you'd have to live with the opposite: the emphasized element is at the front, and the whole sentence hinges on the verb which must be in the second place.

    I find that it helps me a lot in order to develop a sense of how to structure Russian sentences in a natural fashion when I read Russian texts relatively quickly, not worrying about individual unknown words but noticing the overall structure instead.

    If only Russian could stick to one word order... that would be way easier.
    Yes, and if English made any attempt to have the written form correspond in any way with the spoken form, then English would be easier, too. All languages have their idiosyncracies. My native German has no progressive form (such as "am going") and no distinction of imperfective and perfective verbs like Russian has them, it's possible to have a valid and functional language without that. But I have to live with the fact that English and German have these alien complexities. But coming from English, look at what complexities you have become used to from your native language which Russian does not have: there's no passive to speak of, there's just a single past tense and that doesn't even mark the person, there's just a single future tense. There's almost no "to be", which after all is the most complex verb in English (while calling a verb with eight distinct forms "complex" makes me laugh inwardly ). Is that easier for you?

    When learning a foreign language, the hard parts are those which are different from your native language. I think that even the areas where the target language is less complex than the native one can be very difficult to master. You have to leave behind the concepts of the native language and try to adopt a feeling for the concepts of the target language in order to master it.
    Спасибо за исправления!

    Вам нравится этот форум, и вы изучаете немецкий язык? Вот похожий форум о немецком языке.

  11. #11
    Подающий надежды оратор Nichole.'s Avatar
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    To everybody that replied, thanks.

    Still a little bit confusing, but that's probably because I'm still thinking in English and Spanish (although it's hard to think in anything else when that's what's been drilled in your head since forever) .

    It just seems that Russian is soooo simple that it makes everything too complicated, if that makes sense.

    For example, the whole "My brother ate an apple." sentence... in English, French, and Spanish, you say it one way and it depends on who was talking before you or the situation you are in, what is being emphasized. See? Nice and simple, hehe.

    Like I said before, my three languages are the only ones that make sense to me right now. How long does it take before the Russian part of my brain starts to function?!

    Anyway, thanks for the help, guys.
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