056 Nominal English versus verbal Czech

The nominal tendency in English sentence complexing opposed to the verbal tendency in Czech is the most frequently and widely discussed topic in all contrastive English-Czech linguistic studies (see Dušková), most of them referring to Vachek’s (Selected writings in English and general linguistics) findings about the relatively vague semantic nature of many English verbs, functioning as bearers of grammatical categories prototypical of the verb (tense, voice, mood…) and combining with nouns which function as the semantic centres of gravity: have a rest, take a seat, make a mistake etc.

In Czech, they are mostly compensated for by semantically rich verbs. This finding corresponds to the analytical nature of English compared to the preferred synthetic shaping of the predications in Czech. Compare:

It’s another busy springtime at the British Council, with a wide range of projects going on as usual. Once again in this season’s Zpravodaj we invite you to take a closer look at a few of them.                                                                                                                                                                               Britská rada proživá další čílé jarní období, kdy jako vždy probíhá rada nejrůznějsích projektů a akcí. A opět vám nabízíme nové číslo Zpravodaje, na jehož stránkách se s nekterými z nich můžete blíže seznamit.

Use of this kind of condensed nominal phrase is particularly interesting.

Even more idiomatic wording in English is not immune to the nominal tendency.

My husband was on the phone at once confirming our plans.                                                               Manžel okamžitě telefonoval, aby potvrdil naši účást.

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

The verb in English is usually semantically very weak, has an emptied meaning, serves as a mediator between the subject and other sentence elements. Due to the nominal tendency in English, predication tends to be expressed by non-verbal elements (nouns), whereas in Czech, predication tends to be expressed by the verb (although also in Czech the verb rarely completes the development of communication).

He’s been a teacher all his life.Celý život učí.

He takes a shower every day.Sprchuje se každý den.

She gave a funny laugh. — Legračně se zasmála.

He is a heavy smoker. — Hodně kouří.

Fire!Hoří!

From A Handbook of Functional Sentence Perspective — Martin Adam

 

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