Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968 this is not

8

Source: Is Putin Winning?

Example:

A Russia that can’t control what happens in Kiev is not exactly poised to dominate Eastern Europe; Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968 this is not.

The grammar looks a little bit nonstandard. Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968 is supposed to go after this is not. What do you think is going on here?

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2015-10-05T00:42:29.673

Reputation: 37 124

2

I think it's used for an effect, though I'm not sure about the name of the structure (fronting, perhaps?). Anyway, it sounds fine to me. Here is a similar example: Silicon Valley, this is not.

– Damkerng T. – 2015-10-05T01:04:43.743

8Master Yoda of Star Wars is known to speak in this manner. – shin – 2015-10-05T01:47:14.753

4@shin: meant you I think "Known in this manner to speak Master Yoda of Star Wars is", hmmmmm? :-) – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica – 2015-10-05T12:19:35.227

1

Because Yoda speak never crossed my mind, so I looked for more info about the structure itself. I've looked and found it on a page that's not available on Google Books. However, this page has similar information. I believe that this structure is called preposing, or to be more specific: complement preposing.

– Damkerng T. – 2015-10-05T16:46:09.990

Answers

19

It is grammatically correct. While less common, this change in the typical order is called hyperbaton and is not that unusual. It's typically used for emphasis.

The semantic meaning of the bolded sentence is identical to:

This is not Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968.

but with the hyperbaton the implied disparity between "this" and "Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968" feels greater.

As far as what is going on grammatically, I think it's nothing more than the flexible word order afforded by English.

I am not a fool.

A fool I am not.

Both are correct.

Jonah

Posted 2015-10-05T00:42:29.673

Reputation: 1 255

3This is *not* inversion! Only in clauses where the verb comes before the subject have you inversion, like in this sentence. That isn’t happening here. – tchrist – 2015-10-05T01:49:08.483

I wasn't using "inversion" in the technical sense, but in the dictionary sense: "a change in the position, order, or relationship of things". Nevertheless, you are right that it's confusing on a language site. I'll update to use the correct term, which I wasn't aware of. Thanks. – Jonah – 2015-10-05T02:13:19.403