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  1. #1
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Articles: Generic and Definite

    I am still confused about the difference between definite plural nouns with "in" and generic plural nouns with "in". I know that the generic plural noun is used to refer to a group or all members of a class. I also know that indefinite nouns are different from generic nouns since the second mention of a generic noun does not need "the".


    However, I found "A" and "B" below in my reading. I think that since "in" makes the plural nouns in "A" and "B" definite, I am confused why "the" was not used before the plural nouns. Please correct me with how I have felt the statements in "A" and "B" should be stated as set out in 1-4 under "A" and 1-2 under "B", which represent my interpretations.

    I am also confused about "C" and "D". My interpretations are in 1-2 under "C" and 1-3 under "D"

    A. Governors throughout country Y talked to their constituents in 2004 about how a lagging economy had weakened states in the country.

    1. Governors in country Y talked to their constituents in 2004 about how a lagging economy had weakened states in the country.

    2. The governors in country Y talked to their constituents in 2004 about how a lagging economy had weakened the states in the country.

    3. All governors in country Y talked to their constituents in 2004 about how a lagging economy had weakened all states in the country.

    4. All the governors in country Y talked to their constituents in 2004 about how a lagging economy had weakened all the states in the nation.


    B. Politics has become a productive process of decision making in country Y. In 2004 in particular, politics in country Y was shaped by activists.

    1. Politics has become a process of decision making in country Y. In 2004, the politics in country Y was shaped by activists.

    2. Politics has become a process of decision making in country Y. In 2004, the pattern of politics in country Y was shaped by activists.


    C. The right to privacy is considered important in country Y. This right is specifically supported by stringent conditions in Article B of Country Y's Constitution and national legislative intervention in the Paul case of 2004.

    1. The right to privacy is considered important in country Y. This right is specifically supported by the stringent conditions in Article B of Country Y's Constitution and the national legislative intervention in the Paul case of 2004.

    2. The right to privacy is considered important in country Y. This right is specifically supported by some/most of the stringent conditions in Article B of Country Y's Constitution and the national legislative intervention in the Paul case of 2004.

    D. 140 million citizens live in a municipality in country Y.

    Note: This is a generic statement; country Y has more than one municipality.

    1. 140 million citizens each live in a municipality in country Y.
    2. All municipalities in country Y are homes to 140 million citizens.
    3. All municipalities in country Y are a home to 140 million citizens.

    Please correct me.

  2. #2
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Hi,

    You have obviously taken a lot of time with your post. I am sure others will reply, but as it 4am here in UK I cannot give it the attention it deserves. I will think about it and reply to you when I am more awake.

  3. #3
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    curmudgeon and other experts, please help with my problems posted in 2006. I have been waiting for your help. Thank you.

  4. #4
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Why do you think that in following plural nouns (as in your examples) makes them definite? In addition, generic nouns might be generic with the article in the singular / without the article in the plural depending on what they refert to. But let me first define what is generic and definite again so that everybody understands because I believe you still misunderstand and confuse the two:

    Generic: unlimited they hold for all time or as long as entities exist: Leo is a lion. The Lion/lions is (are) ferocious beast(s): interpreted as: any lion or a set of lines but The doctor is kind is not possible generically so we have to use the plural: Doctors are kind. The lions are ferocious animals cannot be interpreted generically.
    Definite: limited: Leo is angry

    A lagging economy has weakened states in the country. Politics....States/ Politics are generic because they apply as long as those entities exist (all times). The same applies to others. There is no evidence that in following nouns makes generic nouns definite as you claim. It is not in but the of construction that sometimes makes a generic noun definite.

    The following text might be of more help:
    Rather than starting work with lessons and materials by explaining the differences between generic and specific nouns, I think we might more effectively start by focusing on different types of communication that require the use of generic or specific nouns.

    1. Generic nouns are often used in generalizations and statements of theory and definitions of terminology.

    2. Specific nouns are often used in examples and narratives (not just fiction but history and the use of historical examples in scientific text).
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 01-Feb-2007 at 14:07.

  5. #5
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Thank you for your response.

    But what makes the following highlighted words generic?


    The right to privacy is considered important in country Y. This right is specifically supported by stringent conditions in Article B of Country Y's Constitution and national legislative intervention in the Paul case of 2004.


    140 million citizens live in a municipality in country Y.

    Can the last statement be re-expressed as:

    1. 140 million citizens each live in a municipality in country Y.
    2. All municipalities in country Y are homes to 140 million citizens.
    3. All municipalities in country Y are a home to 140 million citizens.


  6. #6
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Quote Originally Posted by kooiu View Post
    Thank you for your response.

    But what makes the following highlighted words generic?


    The right to privacy is considered important in country Y. This right is specifically supported by stringent conditions in Article B of Country Y's Constitution and national legislative intervention in the Paul case of 2004.


    140 million citizens live in a municipality in country Y.

    Can the last statement be re-expressed as:

    1. 140 million citizens each live in a municipality in country Y.
    2. All municipalities in country Y are homes to 140 million citizens.
    3. All municipalities in country Y are a home to 140 million citizens.

    I. As I already said the fact that your highlighted words are generalizations or definitions (which are taggable) make them generic. Things that are not specifically known to the speaker/writer are generic.

    II. Your last statement can be re-written as in 2 because of agreement.

    1. Singular and plural generic count nouns can be almost interchangeable.

    A mobile makes a good gift for a girl.
    Mobiles make good gifts for girls.
    (Both sentences = All mobiles make .....)

    2. Second mention of generic nouns doesn't require the. (since we're still not talking about specific people/things known:

    Q: What's a mobile?
    A: A mobile is a phone/a camera / an MP3 player in one device.

    3. generic mass nouns always look like indefinite nouns
    (The is never used with generic mass nouns):
    Life is short.

    4. A few generic countable nouns look like definite nouns (they take the), even though they do not refer to specific, unique things
    The lion is a dangerous animal

    III. Treat collective nouns (generic nouns) as singular unless the meaning is clearly plural. Both generic and non-generic noun phrases are tagged. Fictional people, places, and organizations are also taggable.
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 03-Feb-2007 at 05:48.

  7. #7
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Could you use my examples to explain why the highlighted words are generic and taggable? I am familiar with rules governing the use of generic and indefinite nouns.

    For example, if one says, "his action violated separation of power". As a taggable phrase, I know that what was meant is "his action violated the principle that is called separation of power. In this sense, I know without any doubt that "separation of power" is taggable or is like a proper noun that requires no definite article.

    How taggable are the highlighted words in my example? Please use my examples. I have read much about generic and indefinite articles along with their rules.

    Thank you.

  8. #8
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    Quote Originally Posted by kooiu View Post
    Thank you for your efforts.
    Could you use my examples to explain why the highlighted words are generic and taggable? I am familiar with rules governing the use of generic and indefinite nouns.
    For example, if one says, "his action violated separation of power". As a taggable phrase, I know that what was meant is "his action violated the principle that is called separation of power. In this sense, I know without any doubt that "separation of power" is taggable or is like a proper noun that requires no definite article.
    How taggable are the highlighted words in my example? Please use my examples. I have read much about generic and indefinite articles along with their rules. Thank you.
    Let me first make you aware of the following:
    I believe your problem is: you think (at least sub-consciously) the generic case in English is the same as in other languages (your own language as for example) otherwise you wouldn't have been confused about in in your first post. This is a problemn of linguistic interference:
    English tends to make a liberal interpretation of the concept of generic in the following cases (and in your examples: no need to refer to them one by one because they are all the same) than other languages. So zero article is used even if the reference of the noun head is restricted by postmodification (prepositions) or premodification (adjectival):

    1. Postmodifications (prepositions) Only the of-construction (not other prepositions as you thought) as I said earlier might restrict the reference of the noun. But even here there are sometimes limited restrictions:
    The wines of this shop
    is an insance of limited generic reference, in the sense that it does not refer to any particular wines at any one time

    2. Premodifications (adjectival)
    The literature of America
    The history of China
    The politics of Reagen
    (The) cameras from Japan

    3. Ambiguously generic- plural count nouns
    Matters are gone from bad to worse (zero article)
    Appearances can be deceptive
    Prices are always rising

    4. There can be a difference in presupposition denoted by the aricle in generic use:
    Dwarfs/hobgoblins are a popular theme in literature (if they exist)
    The dwarf/hobgoblin is a popular theme in literature (this implies they are extant)

    5. There is a dichotomy between Specific reference and generic reference: not only as one of parallelism but of interdependence

    Now to your example mentioned above:
    1. his action violated separation of power
    This is an example of restricted generic reference. Zero article is used where the reference of the noun head is restricted by premodification. In this example English behaves more liberally than other languages. So separation of power is not like a proper noun (because proper and common nouns are taggable) but a restricted premodification. Number and definiteness distinctions disappear or become neutralized.


    Finally this is a very specific linguistic issue ideal for a purely linguistic platform. You might try to get more insight and help by posting it to some of them. I have already posted your questions to Discussions - sci.lang | Google Groups but I am afraid there is still no response. Still I think I have mentioned the most important points so far but research is still underway since this topic is very complex.. In addition there are a variety of other disciplines which use this definition. The following website might be of interest:
    Generic Meaning
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 05-Feb-2007 at 06:21.

  9. #9
    kooiu is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    I would like to thank you for taking your precious time to attend to my needs. You have really helped.

    I will be waiting for responses to the parts of my problem that you have sent out. Thank you and thank you.

  10. #10
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Articles: Generic and Definite

    In addition, you can go to Answers.com - Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and much more search for generic nouns and download a word document: Exploratory Nominal Entity Annotation Task. This is a good document about generic issues and taggability.

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