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The question is on the nouns highlighted in these excerpts from translations of Camus's The Stranger. They seem to be in the singular and without an article (anarthrous). Also they are all paired up.

Uli Aumüller:

Beim Hinaufgehen bin ich auf der dunklen Treppe mit dem alten Salamano zusammengestoßen, meinem Flurnachbarn. Er hatte seinen Hund bei sich. Seit acht Jahren sieht man sie zusammen. Der Spaniel hat eine Hautkrankheit, die Räude, glaube ich, von der ihm fast das ganze Fell ausgeht und die ihn mit braunen Flecken und Schorf überzieht. Durch das Zusammenleben mit ihm, zu zweit allein in einem kleinen Zimmer, ist der alte Salamano ihm schließlich ähnlich geworden. Er hat rötlichen Schorf im Gesicht und schütteres gelbes Haar. Der Hund hat von seinem Herrchen eine Art gebeugten Gang angenommen, mit vorgestreckter Schnauze und gerecktem Hals.

Goyert and Hans Georg Brenner:

Als ich die dunkle Treppe hinaufging, stieß ich mit dem alten Salamano, meinem Flurnachbarn, zusammen. Er hatte seinen Hund bei sich. Seit acht Jahren sieht man die beiden immer zusammen. Der Spaniel hat eine Hautkrankheit, ich glaube den Brand; er verliert dabei fast alle Haare und ist voll brauner Flecken und Schorf. Weil die beiden dauernd in einem kleinen Zimmer zusammenhausen, sieht der alte Salamano aus wie sein Hund. Er hat rötliche Flechten im Gesicht und schütteres gelbliches Haar. Der Hund wiederum hat von seinem Herrn dessen gebeugte Haltung angenommen, indem er Schnauze und Hals nach vorne streckt.

QUESTIONS

  1. If occurring singly (not paired up), would they go into the plural or require an article. In Uli Aumüller, this would mean e.g.:

    • mit braunen Flecken (plural)
    • mit braunen Schorfen (see note below)
    • mit einer vorgestreckten Schnauze
    • mit einem gereckten Hals
  2. If yes to 1, does the nouns being anarthrous singular have something to do with their being paired up? I notice that this happens in English too:

Mother and child are doing OK.
The child is doing OK.

  1. If yes to 2, is there a grammatical term for this connection between pairing and articles?

Please don't feel you have to answer all three questions. I would be grateful for any answer.

Note: I am not sure about mit braunen Schorfen because some dictionaries list Schorf as a "no plural" noun.

  • 2
    Flecken is plural in all occurrances here. And yes, Schorf is uncountable. – Jan Dec 26 '16 at 14:22
  • @Jan Thanks. I thought voll brauner Flecken was in the nominative singular. If plural, it would have to be genitive? But brauner Schorf cannot be genitive (assuming that brauner also modifies Schorf). – Catomic Dec 26 '16 at 14:33
  • 1
    Voll brauner Flecken is indeed genitive. Schorf is not modified by brauner and is in the Ersatznominativ. It would be genitive my standard grammar rules: ‘und nässenden Schorfs’. I know I’ve answered something on Ersatznominativ where genitive would be required by grammatical rules. I think it was a question on trotz. – Jan Dec 26 '16 at 14:45
  • @Jan voll and voller look very complicated. I've turned up these, including yours. (1) pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a747/… (2) german.stackexchange.com/questions/32090/… (3) german.stackexchange.com/questions/29615/… – Catomic Dec 26 '16 at 15:04
  • (4) books.google.co.jp/… – Catomic Dec 26 '16 at 15:04
2

Short answer

In all of you bold marked examples everything works exactly the same way as it does in English.


long answer

This has nothing to do with the usage of the words in couples. (With one exception, at the end of my answer.)

This is correct:

Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit braunen Flecken überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with brown spots.

This is plural, not singular. Singular would be:

Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit einem braunen Fleck überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with a brown spot.

In both languages, German and English, you use an indefinite article in singular, because it's not a special spot ("the spot"), but just any spot ("a spot"). But when you put a word into plural that would be used with an indefinite article in singular, then you use the null-article (i.e. no article) in plural. This is true for both languages: German and English.


Second part of that sentence:

Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit Schorf überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with scab.

This is singular, because normally you don't count scab. It's just one condition (other than many spots that are always many things, never one condition). So here you use the null-article (no article), and again: You do it in both languages.

You could use an article, but that would change meaning:

indefinite:
Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit einem Schorf überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with a scab.

definite:
Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit dem Schorf überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with the scab.

In both cases (definite and indefinite article) you say, that there is just one place on his skin, that is covered with scab. Without an article you don't give a number. You just say, that the skin is covered with something called "scab".

You also might use plural (but without article):

Er hat eine Krankheit, die ihn mit Schorfen überzieht.
He has an sickness, that covers him with scabs.

In this case you say: "The spot over there is covered with one scab, and there, this other spot is covered with another scab, which gives two scabs in total. And look, there is the next spot covered with the third scab, ..." So in this case you turn scabs into something that you want to count. But normally, you don't.


Other example

Der Hund hat einen Gang angenommen, mit vorgestreckter Schnauze.
The dog has adapted a walk, with to-the-front-stretched snout.

(Sorry, there is no good one-word-translation for the verb »vorstrecken«.)
Here the noun Schnauze/snout is in singular, but used with an attribute. If you have an attribute, it replaces an article. Compare with:

Der Hund hat einen Gang angenommen, mit einer Schnauze.
The dog has adapted a walk, with a snout.

In this case this semantically doesn't much sense, since the focus of the meaning of this sentence lay exactly in this attribute. But grammatically it's just a replacement of an article.

You also can combine an article with an attribute, but be aware, that the attribute has to be declined in a different way if there is an article:

Der Hund hat einen Gang angenommen, mit einer vorgestreckten Schnauze.
The dog has adapted a walk, with a to-the-front-stretched snout.


The other example

Der Hund hat einen Gang angenommen, mit gerecktem Hals.
The dog copied a walk, with stretched neck.

is grammatically the same as above, just with other words.


The examples

... ist voll brauner Flecken.
... is full of brown spots.

and

... ist voll Schorf.
... ist full of scab.

again work in German the same way as they do in English, so the fact, that they appear in a couple has no grammatical consequence.


Only in

Der Hund hat eine Haltung angenommen, indem er Schnauze und Hals nach vorne streckt.
The dog has taken a position, by stretching snout and neck to the front.

you have the same phenomenon as in »Mother and child are doing OK«. And again: This is exactly the same in German and Englisch. If you have only one word, you need an article:

Der Hund hat eine Haltung angenommen, indem er die Schnauze nach vorne streckt.
The dog has taken a position, by stretching the snout to the front.

  • Thank you. The only thing I am doubtful about is the general availability in English of the preposition + adjective + noun construction where the noun is countable. E.g. with red nose, in big house, or (your example) with to-the-front-stretched snout. These don't sound right to me UNLESS coupled, as in with red nose or blue. I will try to gather more examples in both languages and raise another question. Thanks again. – Catomic Dec 27 '16 at 4:52

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