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Grammar books have taught me that 'der' words are the usual relative pronouns in German, and that 'welcher' words might work sometimes but would sound stilted and bookish.

But I found a sentence in this (to me) strange form:

Green sah sich nicht nach Karl um, welchem in diesem Benehmen etwas zu liegen schien.

The full sentence, found in Kafka's Amerika (Der Verschollene), is this:

Während Herr Pollunder mit freundlichem Blick Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green, obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt, auch nicht im geringsten nach Karl um, welchem in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder, Karl für sich und Green für sich, solle hier mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen versuchen, die notwendige gesellschaftliche Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon mit der Zeit durch den Sieg oder die Vernichtung eines von beiden herstellen.

According to the grammar books, I might have expected one of the following:

(a) Green sah sich nicht nach Karl um, in dem Benehmen etwas zu liegen schien.

(b) Green sah sich nicht nach Karl um, in welchem Benehmen etwas zu liegen schien.

The following might have been news to me,

(c) Green sah sich nicht nach Karl um, in diesem Benehmen etwas zu liegen schien.

but perhaps not a puzzle because it has the same form as (a) and (b).

The actual sentence is a puzzle.

It almost looks to me as if "welchem" were trying (from outside the "in" context) to modify "diesem" and turn it into a relative pronoun, which it otherwise might not be.

That would be interesting, much as if one were to say in English:

The stranger unwittingly derided the man, whom to him the whole town owed a debt of gratitude.

The only instance I can think of, of a word in English modifying another from outside the context of third would be something like "any the less."

For my questions:

  • I would want to know, first of all, that the quoted expression is actually correct usage, and not some typo or idiosyncrasy.

  • So assuming, what are the bounds of the usage? That is, is "welcher word + preposition + dieser word" available any time?

Thank you very much in advance.

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2  
As I see it, welchem refers to Karl. Green didn't turned to Karl and Karl thinks that this is a display of Greens convictions. Slightly simplified as I'm not exactly as gifted as Kafka. –  Einer Jun 20 at 12:26
    
As this is Kafka related, I would go with idiosyncrasy. It is probably correct, but "Kafka-only" usage. –  Pasoe Jun 20 at 12:30
2  
@Einer: Oh, I must say thank you in spite of the injunction not to do so. That makes total sense! It's "to whom in this behavior." How I had puzzled my head over it! And how simple the answer! –  Catomic Jun 20 at 12:32
    
You're most welcome ;-) –  Einer Jun 20 at 12:33
    
@Einer: And may I ask whether "welchem in diesem" obeys the general principle that a "welcher" word as a relative pronoun can be used to avoid having a relative pronoun and an article/another pronoun being stacked together. As in "Der Botschafter, welcher die Verhandlungen gefuert hat." In other words, is the Kafka sentence not even stilted/bookish but perfectly natural sounding insofar as "welchem in diesem" is concerned? –  Catomic Jun 20 at 12:42

3 Answers 3

Your questions:

1) There is no typo. It's a style. (But I'm not competent enough to thoroughly address this part of the question)

2) The use of welcher instead of the der-words for relative pronouns is language diversity. The Duden ranks it as not so usual (2/5 in its scale).

You will find "welcher word + preposition + dieser word" every time you use a welcher-word instead of a der- word and immediately thereafter a complement beginning with a preposition.

It might be convenient here to take an easier example, say, to pick the easiest verb with a dative object: jmdm geben. Here is the basis sentence:

Ich gebe dem Kollegen das Buch.

and out of it, you can write down a relative sentence:

Der Kollege, dem ich das Buch gab, kündigte.

You can add a complement with a preposition: in deinem Büro.

Ich habe dem alten Kollegen das Buch in deinem Büro gegeben.

The relative sentence would usually be:

Der Kollege, dem ich in deinem Büro das Buch gab, kündigte.

You substitute the der-word by a *welcher-*word and invert subject-complement:

Der Kollege, welchem in deinem Büro ich das Buch gab, kündigte.

This has the same structure of your sentence. Hope it helps.

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Thank you. I was totally on the wrong track as to the reference of "welchem." May I further ask whether German also has the equivalent of "in which + [noun]," referring to the idea of the whole preceding clause? E.g. "He hit me, by which behavior he showed what a brute he was." In other words, would a sentence like my (a) or (b) be grammatical (though it has a different meaning than Kafka's original)? –  Catomic Jun 20 at 12:59
    
@Catomic I'd suppose that's the origin of the subjunction indem, once in dem (which, if I understand correctly your question, Wiktionary confirms: Zusammenrückung der Präposition „in“ mit dem Artikel „dem“; etwa seit dem 17. Jahrhundert). –  c.p. Jun 20 at 13:32
1  
As a german, this sentence sounds very strange: Der Kollege, welchem in deinem Büro ich das Buch gab, kündigte.. I would use Der Kollege, welchem ich das Buch in deinem Büro gab, kündigte. instead. –  maja Jun 22 at 15:13
    
@maja I thought so. I just tried to tease apart the sentence in question, with simpler words. I'd use the subject in second place as well... –  c.p. Jun 22 at 15:36
    
On the other hand, "welchem in deinem Büro ich das Buch gab" makes it clear that "in deinem Büro" refers to the exchange, not the book. –  Carsten Schultz Jun 25 at 16:09

First, you should not be surprised that the language in books sounds bookish.

Secondly, you have not analysed the sentence correctly. It states that:

Karl schien in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens, [object of the conviction], zu liegen.

Now put that in a relative clause... (welchem refers to Karl, which is in the dative case).

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Thanks. Now I know how I'd gone wrong. What I saw in "welchem" was "which," which is not used to refer to a human antecedent (outside the criminal code and other special contexts). –  Catomic Jun 21 at 1:35

What actually happens:

Während Herr Pollunder mit freundlichem Blick Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green, obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt, auch nicht im geringsten nach Karl um, welchem in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder, Karl für sich und Green für sich, solle hier mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen versuchen, die notwendige gesellschaftliche Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon mit der Zeit durch den Sieg oder die Vernichtung eines von beiden herstellen.

So much Kafka. Oh how I hated him for sentences like this one in school. Well let's pick this one apart. First we strike through everything that is not the "main sentence" or rather that's not what actually happens.

This leads to:

Während Herr Pollunder mit freundlichem Blick Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green, obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt, auch nicht im geringsten nach Karl um, welchem in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder, Karl für sich und Green für sich, sollte hier mit seine Fähigkeiten auszukommen versuchen, die notwendige gesellschaftliche Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon mit der Zeit durch den Sieg oder die Vernichtung eines von beiden herstellen.


Während Herr Pollunder Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green nicht im geringsten nach Karl um.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why not even native Germans understand Kafkas sentences.

Now what do we do with the rest?

Well here we go, what did I cross out:

mit freundlichem Blick

This is a modal construction. It answers how / in what way "folgte Herr Pollunder Karl zur Türe"?


, obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt,

Aww, ain't that cute? Kafka obfuscated this sentence even further by placing the indication of reflexiveness in that concessive (either way) subclause at a place where nobody expects it. Apart from that he uses overly complicated constructions and meaningless filler words.

When we move around and simplify that sentence a bit we get:

, obwohl man sich meistens den Blicken seines Gegenübers anschließt,


Moving swiftly on:

, welchem in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder [...] sollte hier mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen versuchen,

Again Kafka purposely obfuscates and complicates the intention of the sentence by adding a meaningless subclause and using overly complicated constructions. simplifying this whole construct we arrive at:

, dem darin eine Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder (für sich) sollte versuchen mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen,


And on to the last:

, die notwendige gesellschaftliche Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon mit der Zeit durch den Sieg oder die Vernichtung eines von beiden herstellen.

This one can't be shortened much. If you'd want you could move it from subjunctive mood, but that's difficult to accomplish. Instead I'd just leave out a few adjectives.


Effective meaning:

If we now put that back together we arrive at:

Während Herr Pollunder Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green nicht nach Karl um, welchem (Karl) darin eine überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder sollte versuchen mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen, (und) die notwendige Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon [...] herstellen.

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This is very instructive, thanks. And hating Kafka in school? That's very interesting. What grade would that be, and and typically which work? What do the teachers say? I think these questions come from my imagining grade 7 through 12 and some accepted "truths" about his style or idea being handed down to pupils, but I may be totally wrong. –  Catomic Jun 27 at 14:31
    
@Catomic Kafka's Proceß was one of the subjects in my abitur. We did go over some short stories of his too. Teachers in general don't say that much in 12th grade and let the pupils analyse texts. Just blatantly wrong interpretations are frowned upon. Also the hate is quite personal... –  Vogel612 Jun 27 at 14:33
    
If you chose it for your abitur, you couldn't have only hated him. But maybe I'm wrong, and it was a required reading. I just looked at your profile, and the abitur is not even all that far into the past! –  Catomic Jun 27 at 14:40
    
@Catomic 't was a required reading. In fact there were three literature pieces for my abitur. Kafkas "Process", "Michael Kohlhaas" and Dürrenmatts "Der Besuch der alten Dame". In the writing part I decided not to do any of them. (got 3 / 15 points). Then I went into "Mündliche Fachprüfung" (oral exam), where a topic is decided for you, you get 20 minutes preparation, and then have a 30 minutes examination. (got 15/15 points) ... –  Vogel612 Jun 27 at 14:43
    
What a rebel you are to reject all three! And how generous of the examiners to give as many as three out of fifteen! –  Catomic Jun 27 at 14:46

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