2

Of the following sentences or structures, is the ensuing or the foregoing content to aber/doch attached with more significance?

  1. Er ist zwar nicht reich, dafür aber gesund; (quoted from Langenscheidt)

    Which part does the speaker want to express as the primary (i.e. with more emphasis), not being rich or being healthy?
    Or there is no such division between primary-and-secondary herein?

  2. Hans bereitete ihm manches Glück, aber auch manche Pein; (from DWDS)

    Which does the speaker want to communicate with more emphasis, Glück or Pein?
    Or there is no such division between primary-and-secondary herein?

  3. Wir schliefen schon, die Mutter aber wachte noch;

    On Whom does the speaker focus, wir or die Mutter?
    Or there is no such division between primary-and-secondary focuses herein?

  4. ein Fehler, aber ein verzeihlicher

    Does the speaker insist that it is a mistake however excusable it may be or that it should be forgiven anyway? (The former stance is severely critical while the latter quite forgiving.)

  5. Er ist reich, doch keineswegs zufrieden.

    Which part does the speaker express with more emphasis, being rich or not being contented?

1

In all of those expressions the aber/doch does little more than denote an opposition between the first and the second part. Any type of significance of one part is introduced by other words in the sentences/fragments.

Er ist zwar nicht reich, dafür aber gesund.

It is the dafür that emphasises the positivity of being healthy whose benefits outweigh the drawbacks of being poor.

Hans bereitete ihm manches Glück, aber auch manche Pein.

Both stand next to each other equally. If anything, the order of the fragments suggests that whatever follows will concentrate more on the Pein.

Wir schliefen schon, die Mutter aber wachte noch.

Here I see the second sentence to be emphasised more due to the noch and it being second. Also semantically, it is simply more likely for the speaker to want to express the still awake part.

ein Fehler, aber ein verzeihlicher

The verzeilich is more important or it wouldn’t have been placed separately.

Er ist reich, doch keineswegs zufrieden.

Keineswegs is definitely the emphasising word. Doch does little more than assist.

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  • Thanks for your answer; I'd like to ask whether the principle you raised ''the aber/doch does little more than denote an opposition ... '' applies to the following sentence as well : ,,Das gelingt ihm auch anfangs; Dann aber wird er in einen regelrechten Kampf verwickelt;'' So ,,aber'' does not furnish the 2nd clause with more significance, which is rather UNDERSTOOD with the common sense (that a later stage bears more consequence to the eventual outcome than the initial stage does) than Expressed via such linguistic devices as emphatic words, manipulation of word order, etc. ? – Lynnyo May 5 '16 at 0:31
  • @Lynnyo Yeah, I would almost say so. Of course, dann aber is a slightly different case than pure aber, where the interaction of both adverbs creates more of a significance than just one, but a relevant part of the significance of part two is encoded in the actual story told. – Jan May 5 '16 at 11:27

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