panjomin (panjomin) wrote in linguaphiles,

German/English question

Guten Tag Linguaphiles!  I'm trying to understand this sentence (irrelevant parts left out):

"... betrachtet von Kremer den Staat als eine soziologische Erscheinung, deren Entstehung, Entwicklung und Zerfall eigenen Gesetzen unterliegt..."

It seems this should mean:

"...von Kremer treats the state as a sociological phenomenon whose rise, development, and fall are subject to certain laws..."

But if "rise, development, and fall" is the subject of the relative clause, shouldn't "unterliegt" (sing.) be "unterliegen" (pl.)?
Tags: german, translation
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March 1 2014, 22:19:32 UTC 1 year ago

Erscheinung (sing.) .... eigenen Gesetzen unterliegt (sing).
alles korrekt


March 1 2014, 22:28:14 UTC 1 year ago

"Unterliegt" bezieht sich aber nicht auf "Erscheinung", sondern, wie OP sagt, auf "Entstehung, Entwicklung und Zerfall" - umgeformt wäre es "Entstehung, Entwicklung und Zerfall unterliegen eigenen Gesetzen" und nicht "Die Erscheinung unterliegt eigenen Gesetzen".

OP, in my opinion you're right, and it should be "unterliegen"; if I were to write that sentence, I would definitely use that form of the verb. However, I've seen this kind of mistake before, including in scholarly texts - as you can see, those aren't always guaranteed to be grammatically correct if things get a bit subtle and if the proofreaders, if there were any, weren't attentive.


March 1 2014, 22:51:12 UTC 1 year ago

Many thanks! Good to know that expert German readers get mixed up too.


March 1 2014, 23:57:34 UTC 1 year ago

... and I would definitely use "unterliegt" and not "unterliegen". Even though I agree that the grammar asks for "unterliegen". Oh, and I have no idea why!

(native speaker as well)


March 2 2014, 00:29:43 UTC 1 year ago

I'm not an expert on German, but could it be that there is a slight difference in meaning? And if it is 'unterliegt' the 'Entstehung, Entwicklung und Zerfall' business is treated as a whole (i.e. you can substitute it with 'all that stuff that happens to the state'), but if it's 'unterliegen', all three are viewed, in a way, separately.


March 4 2014, 20:36:20 UTC 12 months ago

Me too because I think of the Empire as one...whatever happens to its various parts and in whichever order...

(Native speaker but born and brought up abroad and always at a loss about grammar rules)


March 2 2014, 00:38:22 UTC 1 year ago

The plot thickens! Thanks to all, and keep 'em coming.


March 2 2014, 08:10:46 UTC 1 year ago

I agree with everything everybody said so far.
(I'm not even joking)

(Native speaker)

For me it's like this: it is kind of a mistake if you really pick it apart but it's inherently understood for all three, and the grammatical inexactitude doesn't grind.


March 2 2014, 08:42:12 UTC 1 year ago

'Entstehung, Entwicklung und Zerfall' is treated as a single term - they're all connected and add to a single subject. If they were unrelated items you would expect the plural.

The rise and fall of Rome was a messy process.


March 3 2014, 02:01:24 UTC 1 year ago

Cf. "where moth and rust doth corrupt".


March 3 2014, 04:21:10 UTC 1 year ago

Very helpful - many thanks!