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Thread: Who are you?

  1. #1
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Question Who are you?

    "Who are you, the biochemist?"

    Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who are not? I suppose it is, but want to be sure; especially I am eager to learn if this definite article before the "biochemist" is correct. In my eyes it is.

    Thanks,
    Nyggus

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Who are you?

    Are you directing this question to the biochemist[s]?

    If so, then "Who are you, biochemist[s]?"

    If your title is more indirect, and is asking about biochemists in general, it will be better as "The biochemist - who/what are you?"

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    Default Re: Who are you?

    Dear Nyggus

    Your question raises the whole issue of the use of articles and also of names, in English. I note that you are a Polish-speaker, in which case I asume you have definite but not indefinite articles in your native language. Is that correct?

    Let's deal with names first. Names denote individuals; nouns - common mouns as opposed to proper nouns, i.e. names, - denote classes/categories.

    I am assume that in the question

    "Who are you, the biochemist?"

    you are using 'biochemist' as a category label and not as the name of an individual, as in

    a) 'Who are you, Mary?' - speaking to someone called Mary

    b) 'Who are you, Frenchman?' - speaking to a Frenchman, whose name you do not know, or

    c) 'Who are you, Biochemist?' -speaking to a biochemist whose name you do not know.

    If you were using 'biochemist' as a name in a direct question, this form of address would be rude, perhaps even aggressive. If you wished to use 'biochemist as a name or title, you would also use a capital 'B without an article.

    Why no article? This leads us on to the question of how articles function used with class labels, i.e. common nouns. 'The' specifies, tells us which member(s) of the category in question, that it is to say, it refers either to those members of the category, almost certainly a group of people in this case, that we have been discussing, or it identifies a subset of one or more of those members.

    "Who are you, the biochemist?" would only make sense if the speaker/writer were addressing a member of a group which included, say, (a) physicist(s), (a) mathematicician(s) and one biochemist brcause the question has the form

    "Who are you, the biochemist?"

    rather than

    "Who are you, one of the biochemists?"

    From what you say, it is clear that this is not your intended scenario. Therefore your form of words is incorrect in the sense that it does ask the question you intend to ask.

    But I'm afraid that even your query is ungrammatical. "Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who are not?"

    There are two meanigful forms of question here.

    a) "Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who they are not?"

    and

    b) "Is this title correct for an essay on who are biochemists are and who are not?"

    A) calls for a definition of the category 'biochemist', i.e. 'an essay about what it means to be a biochemist?', whereas b) asks the readers which of of them are biocchemists and which of them are not.

    So unless yo clarify the topic of our essay I cannot comment further.

    Fred O'Hanlon

  4. #4
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Who are you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred O'Hanlon View Post
    Dear Nyggus

    Your question raises the whole issue of the use of articles and also of names, in English. I note that you are a Polish-speaker, in which case I asume you have definite but not indefinite articles in your native language. Is that correct?
    Not really. We have neither of them in Polish.

    Let's deal with names first. Names denote individuals; nouns - common mouns as opposed to proper nouns, i.e. names, - denote classes/categories.

    I am assume that in the question

    "Who are you, the biochemist?"

    you are using 'biochemist' as a category label and not as the name of an individual, as in

    a) 'Who are you, Mary?' - speaking to someone called Mary

    b) 'Who are you, Frenchman?' - speaking to a Frenchman, whose name you do not know, or

    c) 'Who are you, Biochemist?' -speaking to a biochemist whose name you do not know.

    If you were using 'biochemist' as a name in a direct question, this form of address would be rude, perhaps even aggressive. If you wished to use 'biochemist as a name or title, you would also use a capital 'B without an article.
    OK, I understand the point.

    But I'm afraid that even your query is ungrammatical. "Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who are not?"

    There are two meanigful forms of question here.

    a) "Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who they are not?"

    and

    b) "Is this title correct for an essay on who biochemists are and who are not?"

    A) calls for a definition of the category 'biochemist', i.e. 'an essay about what it means to be a biochemist?', whereas b) asks the readers which of of them are biocchemists and which of them are not.
    I meant (a). Thanks for your reply.

    Nyggus

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