Posts Tagged ‘embedded clauses’

More Embedded Clauses

The previous post had another doozy of a sentence with embedded clauses.  It helps me to graphically arrange the words in a way that shows how clauses are embedded within other clauses.  The adjective and article endings can also be tricky: -es can be neuter nominative or or genitive singular masculine or neuter; der can be nominative, genitive, or dative (depending on gender and number).  Der can also be a relative pronoun or demonstrative adjective, if its use as a definite article isn’t enough.

After you untangle the syntax, practice reading a passage like this aloud, using pauses, tone, and volume to express the syntax.

Wissenschaft in Erkenntnis

jenes in Gottes Werk gesprochenen Wortes Gottes

Wissenschaft in der Schule

der jenes Wort Gottes bezeugenden heiligen Schrift

Wissenschaft in der Bemühung

um die der (durch jenes Wort Gottes) berufenen Gemeinde

unausweichlich gestellte Wahrheitsfrage.

science in recognition of that word of God spoken in God’s work,
science in the school of the Holy Scriptures which testify to that word of God,
science in the labor for the question of truth which is inescapably placed before the community  that is called through that word of God.


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Not Hamburger sandwiches, nor Frankfurter sandwiches, but maybe some Basler sandwiches:

One of the things that makes German syntax so difficult to follow is the way a long string of words (many clauses, in fact) can be sandwiched between two words that relate closely to each other.

Especially common are what I call “article sandwiches.”  In English we normally sandwich an adjective between the definite article and its noun: the man, the big man, the big, bad wolf.  We don’t usually, however, sandwich prepositional phrases or relative clauses between a noun and its article.  German writers, it seems, love to do this.

We don’t say things like, “the in-the-moon man” or “the whom-everyone-loves man.”  Those would make perfectly good German.  Observe how many words intervene between “die” and “Bekanntschaft” in the following example—and how many words between “dem” and “Gott.”

Das Eine, worauf es ankommt, ist die nie selbstverständliche, nie schon vorhandene, von keinem Theologen in keiner geistigen oder geistlichen Tasche schon mitgebrachte Bekanntschaft mit dem von den Göttern aller anderen Theologien so wunderlich verschiedenen Gott des Evangeliums.

There are several thoughts embedded in this one long sentence.  They could be broken down something like this:

  • Das wichtigste Ding ist die Bekanntschaft mit dem Gott des Evangeliums.
  • Dieser Gott ist so wunderlisch verschieden von den Göttern aller anderen Theologien.
  • Aber die Bekanntschaft mit diesem Gott ist nie selbstverständliche, nie schon vorhandene.
  • Kein Theologe kann sie  in einer geistigen oder geistlichen Tasche (so zu sagen) schon mitbringen.
  • Why are the thoughts combined into one sentence?  Doing so better shows how the ideas are related to each other.  Moreover, it allows a certain climactic conclusion; in this case leaving the focus on the words “Gott des Evangeliums.”

    On the other hand, maybe Mark Twain was right. . .

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