054 Condensation

Condensation (particularly in literary and formal style)

“One of the global differences in the English-Czech interface is the tendency to shape the sentence complex in English as a compact whole, in which the core (nucleus) is surrounded by various more or less condensed structures (satellites); and the tendency in Czech to shape the sentence complex in a relatively loose way, in which the secondary communicative lines are preferably given the status of dependent clauses, loosely attached to the nuclear predication.”

“Surveying the differences in sentence complexing between English and Czech, Vachek* speaks of „two different ways in which the two languages tackle the realities of the outside world„. Thus, while in Czech there is a tendency to dissociate the extra-lingual reality and segment it into a „series of actions or processes“ (reflected in the relatively loose structure of the sentence complex), in English there is a tendency to envisage the same reality „as a single basic action or process, absorbing all other potential actions or processes as its elements or concomitant circumstances“.

*Selected Writings in English and General Linguistics

In other words, the ModE sentence complex is said to be organized around a nuclear predication, surrounded as it were, by „condensed“ satellites (infinitives, gerunds, participles, nominalized structures and other processes contributing to compactness) – the priorities of typologically different Czech are in a relatively loose sentence-complex structure, with a higher frequency of occurrence of dependent clauses [and] less frequent occurrences of sentence condensers…

These condensers are particularly visible in formal and literary registers.


The coat, though light, is extremely bulky.                                                                                                   Ačkoliv je kabát lehký, je extrémně objemny.

In my fantasy I was swapping witticisms.                                                                                                             V duchu jsem si představovala jak si vyměnuji vtipné poznámky.

On the occasion of my first American book promotion – a landmark in any writer’s life – I not only ignored the advice, I laughed in its face.                                                                                                       U příležitosti vydání své první knihy v Americe – což je přelom v životě každého spisovatele – jsem tuto radu nejen ignorovala, ale přímo jsem se jí vysmívala do očí.

Note: higher explicitness of the wording in Czech, which also contributes to the above-mentioned looser structure of sentence complexes.

I’m in another hotel, trying to write another film script.                                                                           Jsem zase v jiném hotelu a pokouším se napsat další filmový scenář.

Hearing a squeal of tyres, my daughter got out of her sick bed and looked out of her bedroom window to see a yellow car being reversed at speed and parked opposite our house.                     Má dcera zaslechla zasvíštění pneumatik, vylezla z postele a podívala se z okna. Viděla otlučené žluté auto, jak prudce brzdí a parkuje před protějším domem.

Here the Czech translator used two separate complexes to compensate for the single and compact whole used in the English source text.

We sat together in silence staring at the sunshine on the sea.                                                          Seděli jsme tiše vedle sebe a zírali na slunce nad mořem.

Speaking of the future, X is finally online.                                                                                                     Kdyz mluvime o budoucnosti, X je konecne online.

The backgrounding effect of the English condenser (speaking…) is diminished in Czech by the rank-raising process, changing the status of the English semi-clause (non-finite clause) into that of a dependent finite clause – or, in many cases, even the main clause, cf.

The wind had changed direction during the night, bringing a warm rain which had melted and washed away the snow.                                                                                                                                               V noci změnil vítr směr a přinesl teplý dešť, který sníh rozpustil a splachl.

“In some Czech translations from English there are „more condensers than a good and clear Czech style can absorb“. Translators possessed of finer feeling for the requirements of Czech style will resort to Czech dependent clauses as equivalents to English condensers.“

Literary style

The English sentence complex might be difficult to translate into Czech because of the ramification of communicative lines (i.e. the interruption of one clause by the insertion of another clause, or a sequence of clauses in which, due to the absence of explicit grammatical signals of syntagmatic relations, it is often demanding to piece the isolated parts together and interpret the whole)

Very often it is the case that the ramified (torn) clause, having its parts located in the initial and final positions respectively, creates a frame for the insertion of the ramifying (parenthetical) elements; the main communicative effect is that of creating communicative tension and highlighting the end-focal, „played-out“ separated consituent, as in

Trilogies, I was informed by my London sources, as soon as the news leaked out that I was writing one, are not good things for the West End.                                                                                     Trilogie, jak mne informovaly mé londyňské zdroje, když unikla zpráva, že jednu právě piši, nejsou tím pravým pro West End.

In the following example, the initial ramified part of the English version is neutralized in Czech, cf.

When, after showering and dressing, he went to the Martineau Hall refectory for breakfast, he found her already seated at a fully occupied table, next to Dempsey.                                             Když se vysprchoval, oblekl a přišel do Martineauovy budovy na snídaní, seděla už v jídelně u plně obsazeného stolu, hned vedle Dempseyho.

With a string of awards behind it, this is widely regarded as one of the most important Northern Irish plays of the last three decades.                                                                                             Hra ziskala řadu cen a je považována za jedno z nejvýznamnějsích severoirských dramat posledních tři desetiletí.

Here the translator opted to present the sequence of events as a loose coordination of two main clauses (a frequent solution).


There’s only one version of the history, and what has happened has happened.                           Je jenom jedna verze historie. Co se stalo, to se stalo.

Chopping is perceived as a reader-friendly solution in translating larger English complexes.

Prototypically, this technique of ‚tearing‘ English sentence complexes into separate utterances in Czech is frequently applied in translating multi-clause English complexes into Czech.

Quickly pulling on a sweater, jeans and the tennis shoes that served him for slippers, Persse ran out into the mild morning air and soon overtook the American, whose pace was in fact rather slower than normal walking.                                                                                                                     Persse si rychle natáhl svetr, džinsy a tenisky, které mu sloužily jako přezuvky, vyběhl do vlahého rana a brzy Američana dohnal. Zappův běh byl totiž pomalejší nez normalni chůze.

In scientific texts, with high information density, the primary reason for chopping is obviously to make the Czech translation more transparent and easier to grasp.

Solar radiation is a resource continuum – a spectrum of different wavelength – but the photosynthetic apparatus is able to gain access to energy in only a restricted band of this spectrum.                                                                                                                                                            Sluneční záření je kontinuální zdroj, obsahující spektrum různých vlnových délek. Fotosyntetický aparát však dokáže využit energie jen v omezeném pásmu tohoto spektra.

Chopping can be used to facilitate explication.

Every main road seems to have been painted with diagonal lines, boxes or shark’s teeth patterns, and bigger and bossier signs.                                                                                                             Každá hlavní třída je pomalovana bílými diagonalami, čtverci či kresbami, které vypadají jako žraloci zuby. Najdete tam i složitější a větší útvary.

 The distribution of punctuation marks may to some extent be supportive in decision-making strategies about chopping. If e.g. a semi-colon occurs in the source sentence complex, the relatively looser connection of clauses optimizes the position for chopping.

For those of you who haven’t seen Pulp Fiction, I urge you to see it; despite its violent subject-matter, it is a highly moral film.                                                                                                                                A vy, kdo jste Pulp Fiction neviděli, rozhodně se na něj jdete podivat. Přesto, že je to film plný násílí, nese velký mravní náboj.

In the following pair, the Czech solution, with the rank-raise of the infinitive (to see) into the clause (Spatřili jsme) and the inclusion of that clause into an autonomous utterance, seem to add ‚dramatic‘ flavour to the description of the sequence of events –

The noise stopped and we looked out of the window to see the ferret faces strolling towards the back of the house.                                                                                                                                                 Hluk ustal a my jsme se podívaly z okna. Spatřily jsme jak fretci mladici miří k našemu zadnímu vchodu.

The main reasons for chopping English sentence complexes into more communicative units in Czech arethe following: to contribute to the transparency and ease of perception of long, more intricate and compact English complexes – and to contribute to the value-added change in information packaging (with more emphasis put onto the isolated, chopped part).

A case can sometimes be made for eliminating introductory attitudinal clauses and discourse markers expressed by ‚degraded‘ clauses:

You feel that you can play a lot more things that you couldn’t play in a bigger environment, you know.                                                                                                                                                                     Můžete zahrát věci, které by se ve větším prostředí zahrát nedaly.

Different rhetorical organization

He thought, as he leaned on the parapet of the town’s bridge and watched the tiny brown river drifting beneath it, of all the expensive young men of the thirties who had made, or wished to make, or talked of making, a gesture somewhat similar to his own, turning their backs on the setting that had pampered them; and how they had all failed from the start because their rejection was moved by the desire to enter, and be at one with, a vaguely conceived People, whose minds and lives they could not even begin to imagine, and who would in any case, if they ever arrived, have made their lives hell.

Když se tak opíral o zábradlí městského mostu a pozoroval hnědou řícku, jak pod ním proteká, přemyslel o všech těch vysoce postavených mladicích z třicátých let, kteří udělali, přali si udělat nebo mluvili o tom, že udělají gesto podobné tomu jeho; otočí se zády k prostředí, které je odchovalo; přemyslel o tom, jak prohrávali od samého začátku, protože jejich odmitání hnala touha stát se součastí Lidi s nejasnou koncepci, o jejichž mysli a životě ještě ani nezačali mít představu, a kteří, každopadně, pokud by se vůbec kdy objevili, jim udělají ze života peklo.

In the original English text, the sentence complex appears to comprise a relatively difficult, less transparent structure, causing communicative tension (by separating parts that belong together).

With the repetition of the predicate verb in the Czech text, and the English semi-caluses changed to finite clauses (otočí se zády vs turning their backs), the whole complex is more transparent.

In the Czech, we again see the tendency to dissociate the sentence complex into a series of relatively loose associated clauses, dominated by more than one nucleus.

If you say something to me 1 / I check 2 / that I have understood your message 3 / by saying it back to you in my own words, / that is, / different words from the ones / you used 4 / for / if I repeat your own words exactly 5 / you will doubt 6 / whether I have really understood you. 7

Když mi něco řeknete 1 / a já vám chci potvrdit 2, / že jsem vašemu sdělení rozuměl 3 / udělám to tak, 4 / že vám je zopakuji svými slovy, tj. jinými slovy 5/ než kterých jste použil vy, 6 / protože / kdybych vaše slova přesně opakoval 7 / neměli byste jistotu 8 / že jsem vám skutečně porozuměl. 9

In the Czech translation the morphological marking of the conditional (kdybych), together with the preference for the „when“ (když) conditional instead of the „if“ conditional, neutralizes the identity of the connectives and the sentence complex as a whole is looser, more explicative (cf. the increased number of clauses), and more transparent.

The decision to rank-raise the English condenser to the status of a finite predication in Czech can initiate a series of other processes leading to the overall restructuring of the original sentence complex.

Filmed in Scotland, England and France, the Da Vinci Code features some truly stunning locations – and they’re open to the public.                                                                                                          Šifra mistra Leonarda se natáčela ve Skotsku, Anglii a ve Francii a představuje některá skutečně fantastická místa – a ta jsou přistupná veřejnosti.

Initial condensers

Nose still stinging where it had hit the hearth, Harry made his way swiftly and silently toward the door.                                                                                                                                                                        Nos ho ještě bolel, jak předtím dopadl do krbu, ale přesto hned potichu zamířil ke dveřím.

From Sentence complexes in Text – Processing strategies in English and in Czech by Jarmila Tárnyiková

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