Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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Parse this!

I just came across an interesting Dutch clause while browsing through old emails, looking for something: dat Jan Marie Pieter Arabisch laat zien schrijven “that Jan let Marie see Pieter write Arabic”, but literally “that Jan Marie Pieter Arabic let see write”, with lots of nouns next to one another and where you have to figure out which noun fills which role in the sentence!

That works in German, too, though with a different order of verbs: “daß Jan Marie Pieter Arabisch schreiben sehen ließ”. I suppose internally you have to put all the nouns onto a stack in your brain and then pop them off as needed to fill the slots in the verbs as they arrive at the end of the sentence. In that sense, the German order might be a bit more “logical” than the Dutch, since the verbs arrive in such an order that the last noun to be pushed onto the stack is popped off each time a new verb comes along.

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