Norwegian: Dette er (folowed by plural noun)

winenous

Senior Member
English - British
I am perplexed by a few examples I found recently in 3 editions of polets "Vinbladet", where "dette er" is followed by a plural noun. I know "det er" can work like that in the sense of "there are", but I do not think I have seen "dette er (plural noun)" before, and to my English mind it seems wrong.

Is it OK in Norwegian? And if so when can it be used?

I think one of the reasons it would sound so wrong in English is that the verb has different singular and plural forms, and whichever you choose seems to clash horribly one side of the verb or the other. Of course that is not a problem in Norwegian.

20210214T111613.png
 
  • Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    It is very widely used. "Dette er" has acquired an overarching meaning for both singular og plural, and used the same way as "det er". I think older people may frown at this usage.
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is very widely used. "Dette er" has acquired an overarching meaning for both singular og plural, and used the same way as "det er". I think older people may frown at this usage.
    Presumably then, as a grumpy old man, I can frown and continue to use "disse er" in those examples?
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I wouldn't say that. I may be grumpy and at least middle-aged myself, but "disse er" doesn't sound natural to me. "Disse er" is not incorrect, but this construction seems very formal to me.

    I would say that "dette er" is the natural choice in your examples. Especially in the first and last ones, where "gin og vodka" and "pils og kellerbier" are treaded as one unit - similar to each other but different from other drinks.

    I think you have to live with the fact that Norwegian uses "this is" where English uses "these are".
     
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    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    It is very widely used. "Dette er" has acquired an overarching meaning for both singular og plural, and used the same way as "det er". I think older people may frown at this usage.
    Presumably then, as a grumpy old man, I can frown and continue to use "disse er" in those examples?
    Just to add to raumar's and Segorian's comments (which I agree with):

    The presentational construction det/dette er... and its counterparts in other Germanic languages seem to be invariable. Number and gender of what follows is simply irrelevant to the Norwegian presentational subject det/dette, a feature that I think it shares with Icelandic Það eru... (Segorian may know this better than me) and German das sind... (both of which use plural agreement for the verb though). English is the odd on out. Thus, the agreement in number that you see in English is either a feature that all the other Germanic languages dropped or it is an English innovation. My guess is that it is the latter option: English acquired this at some point in its history (just like it changed a lot of other Germanic traits). So, "the grumpy old men" probably lived centuries ago in what is now the UK.
     
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    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    So, "the grumpy old men" probably lived centuries ago in what is now the UK.
    The grumpy old man is eternal.

    It seems I have simply overooked the plural use of "dette er" in the past. So I'll only use "disse er" when I want to be overly formal - as well as old and grumpy :)
     
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    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I see that in my examples "dette" refers back to nouns in the previous sentences.

    But am I right in thinking you can also use "dette" if you are simply talking about things nearby? For example "Dettte er bøkene" if you are holding books in your hand - "Here are the books".
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Yes, you can say either "Her er bøkene" or "Dette er bøkene".

    Unless the books have been mentioned earlier in the conversation, it would be strange to say just "Dette er bøkene". You would have to add something, for example:
    "Dette er bøkene mine."
    "Dette er bøkene vi snakket om i går."

    Unlike your other examples, "disse" doesn't work here. You can't say "disse er bøkene". You would have to rephrase it, for example "Det er disse bøkene vi snakket om i går" or "Disse bøkene snakket vi om i går".
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    It seems I have simply overooked the plural use of "dette er" in the past. So I'll only use "disse er" when I want to be overly formal - as well as old and grumpy :)
    There is nothing formal about it in my opinion, it just looks foreign and non-idiomatic. Any attempt to use number or gender agreement in this type of construction is very very odd.

    a) Disse er bilene mine :(
    b) Denne er bilen min :(

    I am hypothesising now, but there is possibly one way I could make it work and that involves a huge shift in prosody, marking contrastive focus on two elements. In a situation where you have walked around presenting the cars of other people and you finally arrive to yours, I can imagine that something like this could work:

    c) DISSE er bilene MINE.

    The prosodic shift required, with all that is implied in terms of stress, intonation and breaks, improves the grammaticality to a certain extent. However, it takes us quite far from the starting point in a), where the phrasal stress would fall on BILene.
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Hello myšlenka,

    Our last posts seem to be cross-posted, but we agree that this construction is very odd. I also agree that a change in stress and intonation might save the sentence.
    a) Disse er bilene mine :(
    b) Denne er bilen min :(

    However, when winenous wrote "formal", this referred to my post #4, which again referred to the original example in post #1.

    Gin og vodka har alltid vært de store brennevinsprodusentenes melk og brød, i den forstand at dette er produkter de kan lage dag ut og dag inn.
    Då er tradisjonelle øltypar, som pils og kellerbier, ein stad å begynne. Dette er to ølstilar som har blitt oversett i jaget etter nyskapande øl.

    Don't you think that "dette" can be replaced with "disse" (or "desse" in the nynorsk example), and that "disse" would seem a bit more formal?
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    However, when winenous wrote "formal", this referred to my post #4, which again referred to the original example in post #1.
    I discovered that afterwards... :oops:
    Don't you think that "dette" can be replaced with "disse" (or "desse" in the nynorsk example), and that "disse" would seem a bit more formal?
    I don't see why that would be more formal. I have never come across the topic in any prescriptive book on how to write Norwegian and it does not seem to have a basis in cognate constructions in closely related languages (English probably introduced it at some point in the last millennium. If so, it can't be a cognate). Assuming that it is more formal, your job is then to explain why similar constructions are not formal but rather come across as non-idiomatic. I am tempted to say ungrammatical even, but I am not sure about what goes wrong. I am experiencing some kind of processing or interpretative issue with the following 3:

    a) Disse er bøkene mine. (you already rejected this one in #10)
    b) Disse er to barn.
    c) Disse er de fine maleriene hennes.

    Pronounced with a neutral prosody, these make me squirm on the inside. If we put in dette instead of disse, then it is all fine. However, your examples are somewhat different in that they contain a following relative clause (produkter som de kan lage..../ølstilar som har blitt...) and if you accept them as formal (but reject the three I provided), the rule you would have to postulate would perhaps be something like:
    "If you want to be formal, you can have plural agreement in presentational constructions only if what is presented is modified by a relative clause. If it is not modified by a relative clause, plural agreement of this kind is not permissible."​

    The rule is cumbersome and seems like something that would be known only to the initiated of an exclusive society. That being said, having the relative clause there does improve my impression of them (just a tad) but I suspect that it is because relative clauses contain information that is compatible with contrastive focus readings (my post #11) and other things that are way too complicated for me. So summing up: on the surface there is a tight correspondence between English these/those and Norwegian disse/de but it's not a one-to-one mapping.

    English
    What are these/those?​
    These/those are my pictures.:)
    Norwegian
    Hva er disse/de?​
    Disse/de er bildene mine. :( (just awful)​
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Unless the books have been mentioned earlier in the conversation, it would be strange to say just "Dette er bøkene". You would have to add something, for example:
    "Dette er bøkene mine."
    "Dette er bøkene vi snakket om i går."
    Understood. That is the context I had in mind
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Again thanks for your response, myšlenka,

    There are two separate issues here. First, is "disse er" more formal than "dette er"? I think you may be right here. If there is a difference in style/register, "formal" is probably not the best word to describe it. And maybe there is no such difference at all.

    The other question may be more interesting: when is "disse er [plural noun]" acceptable and when is it unacceptable?

    We agree on this:
    Disse/de er bildene mine. :( (just awful)

    But there are examples where "disse er [plural noun]" looks perfectly normal to me. For example this one:

    Vi har utallige egenskaper, både synlige og usynlige, som er med på å bestemme hvordan vi er. Disse er produkter av både arv og miljø.
    Source: Naturfag - Vi er formet av arv og miljø - NDLA

    This one also looks OK to me, even though I prefer "dette er" in this case:
    Fra stillingsannonser kjenner du sikkert begreper som "løsningsorientert", "positiv", "utadvendt", "evne til å takle stress". Disse er egenskaper som arbeidsgiveren mener er viktig for å kunne gjøre en god jobb.
    Source: Jobbsøkerkoden

    As you write, there must be some kind of rule that separates acceptable from unacceptable sentences. I can see two differences. First, as you already have pointed out, the more acceptable sentences is where "disse er [plural noun]" is followed by some kind of clause. Second, the plural noun is indefinite in those examples that I find acceptable. If I replace the indefinite form with a definite, the sentence becomes more problematic. I don't know why - I leave that question to the linguists:)
     

    myšlenka

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I can see two differences. First, as you already have pointed out, the more acceptable sentences is where "disse er [plural noun]" is followed by some kind of clause. Second, the plural noun is indefinite in those examples that I find acceptable. If I replace the indefinite form with a definite, the sentence becomes more problematic.
    Ooooh, nice one! You are absolutely right, there is something going on with the indefinite/definite distinction. Sharp observation ;)
    I don't know why - I leave that question to the linguists :)
    Finding the generalisation is half the job :)
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Thank you @raumar and @myšlenka!

    I got a bit lost in the discussion above, but if I dare summarise...

    In the examples I gave originally, where there is a subsequent clause,"disse" isn't so bad, but "dette" is better.

    But in many (all?) other circumstances "disse er" is plain wrong. Use "dette er" - in the same sense as "det er", but for things that are perhaps closer.

    How does that sound?

    Incidentally, I had a 4th example to show, also with a subsequent clause, but I messed up with my composite image. It's attached here as a thumbnail:20210214T110230.png
     

    raumar

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    Yes, I think you sum it up well. I can't think of any example where it would be wrong to translate "These are ..." as "Dette er ...", so I believe you can stick to "dette er" to be on the safe side.
     
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