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    #21

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Since the referent is immediately and visibly present, it is very easily identifiable. Therefore, a definite noun phrase is appropriate.
    Maybe we understand “identifiable” differently. To me, for a thing to be identifiable it should be known to the listener. To identify an object you have to build a bridge between your knowledge/memory and the information you’re getting at the moment of speaking. But the act of seeing something new and hearing of it can’t provide you with the necessary material. In context 1 you can only identify the type of thing: it’s a book. But the follow-up mental process is not part of the identification, but of getting new information (N gave me for my birthday) and of (semi-)unconscious deducing or inferring (I'm seeing this for the first time, but he has used “the” → N gave him only one book). But if I come to visit you with the same book again and say, "I've brought with me the book N gave me for my birthday" (the book I brought last time would be more natural, but we're discussing possibilities), it will be subject to identification in its true sense.

    Of course, I’m just trying to reconstruct your possible mental processes. At least, I would think that way if I were the listener.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    If the relative clause were non-defining (, which N gave), there would be no problem. I think this is why I don't like this example very much.
    That’s why I like this variant: it’s possible, but the reason is mysterious to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I think the qualifier rare adds a sense of openness to the book's identity
    As well as “the book N gave me” removes openness, which should lead you to the conclusion that N gave me only one book.
    But for some mysterious reason it doesn’t. At least you allow for more than one.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 01-May-2020 at 19:50.
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  2. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #22

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    To identify an object you have to build a bridge between your knowledge/memory and the information you’re getting at the moment of speaking.
    No, I don't mean that at all. I meant nothing to do with memory. By 'identifiable', I mean 'able to recognise that something is a thing', distinct from the background field of reality. Babies don't need to have seen something previously, or to have any memory of it, for them to be able to identify things.

    In context 1 you can only identify the type of thing: it’s a book.
    That's not what I meant, though. What I meant is that the speaker's use of a determiner allows you only to identify that it is a thing, not what type of thing it is. It's the word book that says what type of thing it is. Imagine that the hearer is blind. That wouldn't affect what the speaker says.


    But the follow-up mental process is not part of the identification, but of getting new information (N gave me for my birthday) and of (semi-)unconscious deducing or inferring (I'm seeing this for the first time, but he has used “the” → N gave him only one book). But if I come to visit you with the same book again and say, "I've brought with me the book N gave me for my birthday" (the book I brought last time would be more natural, but we're discussing possibilities), it will be subject to identification in its true sense.
    It really doesn't help that you insist on using the. I think this will be much clearer if we use this in this example.

    As I said above, it doesn't matter that the hearer is seeing the book for the first time (regardless of whether the speaker uses the or this).

    The second time that the speaker brings the book would allow him a wider range of reference, because of shared knowledge. He could now refer to the book as, say, that book N gave me.

    Let's forget about using the. I really don't think that's helping. Either that, or forget about using N gave me, which is confusing things even more. I mean, why would would a speaker use a defining clause in this situation anyway? If the listener is unaware of any books, I can't see any need for the speaker to say that this book is defined by the fact that N gave it to me. Are you sure you don't really mean to say the book, which N gave me? That would make more sense to me. Is that not what you mean by 'new information'?

    May I ask you a question, just out of curiosity? If you had to choose one of the following ways to parse your noun phrase, which one would you choose?

    1) the book N gave me
    2) the book N gave me

    Don't think about the grammar at all, just the way it makes most sense in you mind.


    That’s why I like this variant: it’s possible, but the reason is mysterious to me.
    Is it not the case that it's mysterious because you invented it without having a good reason? Or do you mean it's mysterious in light of the fact that I said there may be more than one book that N gave me?

    As well as “the book N gave me” removes openness, which should lead you to the conclusion that N gave me only one book.
    But for some mysterious reason it doesn’t. At least you allow for more than one.
    If the speaker uses a definite article and a defining clause, then yes, the hearer could very well imply that the speaker's point was to define the book as the single member of the class 'books N gave me.' I don't think my allowing there being other members of the class ought to trouble you.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 02-May-2020 at 14:17.

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    #23

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    By 'identifiable', I mean 'able to recognise that something is a thing', distinct from the background field of reality... What I meant is that the speaker's use of a determiner allows you only to identify that it is a thing, not what type of thing it is.
    We obviously see it differently. I’m afraid I’ll confuse you with the following explanation. As I see it, there are different levels of identification: 1) “it’s a thing” → 2) “it’s an element of the class N (a book)” → 3) “it’s an element of the set of the class N (one of the books N gave to Alexey)” → 4) “it’s the thing I’m aware of (the book I saw last time).”

    The moment you’re seeing a book for the first time in your life, you are at the first level. Then you learn somehow the class of objects it belongs to. From this moment onwards, the start level will be at least the second. When I come to you and show a book, you’re already at the second level. When I say, “the book N gave me for my birthday,” you move to the third one deducing, "N gave him one book (= there is one book in the set)."
    But I should take the level you’re at into account. If I say, “the book N gave me...,” while you’re unaware of it, and there is more than one book in the set, I’ll thereby mix the 3rd and the 4th levels up and mislead you.

    I have to add something that might complicate things even more: when you’re seeing something for the first time, you become ready for the 4th level at this moment. But time (in general) and your memory play crucial role here. Next time you see/hear of/come across this thing, it becomes the thing. But not earlier. For example, if I come to you next time and show the same book, I won’t even need to say anything for your upgrading to the 4th level.
    I have to keep it all in mind (semi-unconsciously), which means I shouldn’t use “the” at the beginning, unless I want to let the listener know the thing or set of things is unique (In the latter case I should use plurals).

    Please let me know if it's too confusing, and further discussion of identifiability will be of no use. We can put it away.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I mean, why would would a speaker use a defining clause in this situation anyway?
    But that’s exactly what I’m asking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    If the listener is unaware of any books, I can't see any need for the speaker to say that this book is defined by the fact that N gave it to me.
    Totally agree. But isn’t this what I've been talking about the whole time? Or maybe I understood incorrectly what you meant.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Are you sure you don't really mean to say the book, which N gave me? That would make more sense to me. Is that not what you mean by 'new information'?
    I know the difference between defining and non-defining clauses and how this difference affects article usage. If I meant a non-defining clause, I wouldn’t even have started the thread. But I did it because:

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Or do you mean it's mysterious in light of the fact that I said there may be more than one book that N gave me?
    This is the only reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    May I ask you a question, just out of curiosity? If you had to choose one of the following ways to parse your noun phrase, which one would you choose?

    1) the book N gave me
    2) the book N gave me

    Don't think about the grammar at all, just the way it makes most sense in you mind.
    In my mind determiners and NPs work together, though I understand that analytically they can be divided. So, only the second variant makes sense to me.

    I would like to narrow down the scope of the discussion, but I don't know how.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 03-May-2020 at 11:26. Reason: fixing a typo, reformulation
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    #24

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    When I said 'easily identifiable', I simply meant that the listener could easily identify the referent with the referring expression. I see it like this: as language users, we pick out which sound waves code as referring expressions, and then somehow map those referring expressions onto the field of reality as we perceive it.

    The word identify basically means that two things are in some way the same thing. I think another word for what you're saying is recognise, because you're talking about being able to remember things. By the way, I understand the basic flow of thought of what you said about the 4 levels, but I didn't get it entirely.Part of the problem that we have here is that the way we make reference to things does depend on what philosophers call 'theory of mind'. That is, we do have to bear in mind the knowledge of the knowledge that we think other people have. I think this is at the heart of what you're saying, right? That it's no good referring to something if we don't think our listeners have knowledge of what we mean.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    I would like to narrow down the scope of the discussion, but I don't know how.
    In contrast, I'd prefer to generalise the discussion considerably. To be honest, I don't want to talk about the book N gave me any more. I don't think it's helping you in any way (in fact, I'm worried that what I'm saying is doing more harm than good), it's not helping me in any way, and it's a bit too complicated, in my opinion. I'm very happy to continue other parts of the discussion, however, or at least to change our example sentence.

    I'm going to ask a moderator to move this thread to the General Language Discussions forum.

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    #25

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I think another word for what you're saying is recognise, because you're talking about being able to remember things...That is, we do have to bear in mind the knowledge of the knowledge that we think other people have. I think this is at the heart of what you're saying, right?
    Yes, you’re right. Thank you for bringing recognition into the discussion. Now, I've realized that the distinction between identifying and recognizing is the whole point of my reasoning:

    There is no room for recognition at all in my "book" example. When I see something or some thing for the first time, I can identify it as a thing and as an element of a certain class. But I can’t recognize it as the thing. And if the speaker in such a situation says the thing, the only logical conclusion I can draw is that there is only one thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    To be honest, I don't want to talk about the book N gave me any more.
    OK. My last question: can you come up with any reason for using the, while there are several books, and the listener has seen it for the first time? If nothing comes to mind, can we agree that there no option for the in this example?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'd prefer to generalise the discussion considerably.
    Generally speaking, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a description/NP’s complement just describes something or makes it definite/unique. That’s why I'm always in doubt what article to choose in constructions like "I have a/the right to...” or “I have a/the feeling/fear/idea/belief/though that...”

    Or let’s consider my other example:

    "The studies, which appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, examined cancer status and rate of survival in patients given an amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin that was twice the dose typically prescribed."

    Let’s simplify it: We gave him an amount of medicine that was typically prescribed.

    It sounds like, “I’ve given him a car I usually give him,” which can mean either that the car is one of the several ones I usually give him (= one of the set) or is of a certain kind. But the last part of the “medicine” example sounds as a definite description. There is no set of typically prescribed amounts there (please note that I'm not talking about all possible values of the amount, just about typically prescribed), nor are there kinds of amounts. There is only one typically prescribed amount, which should make it unique in the context. To me, the sentence should be like, “I’ve given him the car I usually give him.” So, why an amount?
    Last edited by Alexey86; 04-May-2020 at 20:21.
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    #26

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    My last question: can you come up with any reason for using the, while there are several books, and the listener has seen it for the first time? If nothing comes to mind, can we agree that there no option for the in this example?


    Yes, let's agree and move on. I don't have anything more to add about that.

    Generally speaking, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a description/NP’s complement just describes something or makes it definite/unique. That’s why I'm always in doubt what article to choose in constructions like "I have a/the right to...” or “I have a/the feeling/fear/idea/belief/though that...”
    Yes, I can sympathise with that.

    Let’s simplify it: We gave him an amount of medicine that was typically prescribed.
    That's not comparable because in that sentence, an indefinite article doesn't work. The sentence as a whole doesn't make much sense (without a special context) so it's no good for analysis. It's like saying that there are lots of amounts that are typically described, and we gave him just one of those.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 05-May-2020 at 00:30. Reason: fixed the formatting

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    #27

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    If I change the sentence a little:

    "The studies, which appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, examined cancer status and rate of survival in patients given
    an amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin, which was twice the dose typically prescribed."

    Does that help?

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    #28

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Does that help?
    No, I'm afraid not. It would make sense to me either with a value (given the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin in the amount of 50 mg, which was twice the dose typically prescribed) or with an indefinite description (given an amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin that was more than usual). But twice the dose typically prescribed makes it unique to me, whether I know the value of the dose or not. It sounds to me like "the car I usually give him."

    Compare:

    - I've given him a car that is twice older than the car I usually give him. (There are an indefinite number of such cars there.)
    - ...patients given an amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin that was twice the dose typically prescribed." (Are there an indefinite
    number of amounts that twice the dose typically prescribed there? )

    - I've given him the car that is twice older than the car I usually give him. (The car is unique.)
    - ...patients given the amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin that was twice the dose typically prescribed." (The amount is unique.)


    The only context in which the former would make sense to me is if "amount" were considered a physical entity, not a value. There could be an indefinite number of such entities, of course.


    Last edited by Alexey86; 05-May-2020 at 00:18.
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    #29

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Alexy, you've posted a private post publicly again.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #30

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Alexy, you've posted a private post publicly again.
    I've already told that all members are welcomed. By the way, I'm Alexey.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 04-May-2020 at 23:48.
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