of a generation

Alexey86

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1. "RIP the great Garry Shandling," Gervais tweeted on Thursday." Surely one of the most influential comedians of a generation".
(The Guardian)
2. But the problem is not the expression of opinions, it's how they come out. Outrage has become the lingua franca of a generation. Soon it may be the only language we understand.
(The Guardian - Opinion)
3. She has always been able to write herself out of these moods of disaster, and the honesty of her descriptions of them and encounters with them is salutary and fortifying. She has been the guide of a generation.
(The Guardian - Books)
4. Let's hope this issue will be the exception. The future of a generation may depend upon it.
(The new Yourk times)
5. Benjamin’s music was introduced to me by a journalist in Paris late last year. I remember listening to this on the underground one lonely night and being brought close to tears. What a talent. What a voice of a generation.
(The Independent)


Why is the indefinite article used with generation? Does generation there mean people of about the same age or a period of time? It seems to me it's the former. If so, it sounds odd to me because it means the generation is unknown to the listener/reader. When I think how I use this notion in Russian, I can't imagine a context in which I would use phrases like the future of... or the guide of... without the listener being aware of what generation I was referring to.
 
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jutfrank

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1 and 5 show generation in its historical sense, meaning something loosely like 'era'.
 

SoothingDave

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It doesn't mean the generation is unknown to the reader, it means that it is one generation among many.
 

Alexey86

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1 and 5 show generation in its historical sense, meaning something loosely like 'era'.

What exactly indicates that 5 means era unlike the guide of or the lingua franca of a generation?

It doesn't mean the generation is unknown to the reader, it means that it is one generation among many.

Which means the reader doesn't know what exactly generation is being referred to. If somebody told me that he had bought three books: X, Y, Z and then added The cover of a book is dirty, I would be confused. Why not tell which? The future of a generation sounds very much the same to me or even more strange if there were no other generations mentioned (like a try-to-guess puzzle)
 
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SoothingDave

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It's pretty obvious that when talking about a person having an impact on "a generation" that it means the generation that person belongs to.
 

Alexey86

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It's pretty obvious that when talking about a person having an impact on "a generation" that it means the generation that person belongs to.

Not to me, unfortunately. How can something indefinite obviously mean something definite?

He is concerned for the future of a family.

Would you say a family obviously means his family?

Or look at this pair:

I broke the windscreen of a car.
I broke the windscreen of my car.


A car doesn't mean my car.
 
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SoothingDave

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Do you really think a comedian who worked in the 1980s and 90s would be a major influence on a generation of comedians from the 1950s or the 2010s?
 

5jj

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... or that the voice of a generation could be the voice of any generation other than their own?
 

Alexey86

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Do you really think a comedian who worked in the 1980s and 90s would be a major influence on a generation of comedians from the 1950s or the 2010s?

I didn't mention the comedian. As jutfrank noticed, generation in 1 roughly means era.

... or that the voice of a generation could be the voice of any generation other than their own?

I bought a book yesterday. Today I noticed the cover of a book is dirty.

Is a book correct, since it should be obvious from the context that I mean the book I bought yesterday?
 

5jj

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Is a book correct, since it should be obvious from the context that I mean the book I bought yesterday?
It is not at all obvious.
 

Alexey86

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It is not at all obvious.

That's what I mean. Obvious isn't a clear term. A twenty-year-old man can, in principle, be the voice of an older generation, reflecting its views, hopes and aspirations. I could be your voice, 5jj, though I'm a bit younger.:)
 

5jj

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A twenty-year-old man can, in principle, be the voice of an older generation,
No, he can't. He could, I suppose, be a voice for an older generation, but not of it.
 

Alexey86

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No, he can't. He could, I suppose, be a voice for an older generation, but not of it.

The thing is that generation is a vague notion. There are no clear boundaries between them. Given all that, it's still not clear to me why the family example is not obvious, while the generation ones are.
 
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probus

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In order to avoid politics I won't name names, but there are two young politicians in the USA today (one male and one female) who are both trying very hard to be the voice or spokesperson for a group that mainly consists of older white males. If they succeed it will prove that someone can be the voice of a generation other than their own.
 

Alexey86

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If they succeed it will prove that someone can be the voice of a generation other than their own.

That's what I mean. The voice of is just a metaphor.
 

5jj

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When we native speakers use the word or hear/see it used, we have a moderately clear idea of of the age range involved.
 

5jj

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If they succeed it will prove that someone can be the voice of a generation other than their own.
I don't agree. As I said earlier, I think that we'd use for.
 

Alexey86

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1. He is concerned for the future of a family.
2. He is concerned for the future of a generation.

Could anybody explain the difference between these example in terms of (in)definiteness/reference without resorting to the notion of obviousness?
 

5jj

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1. He is concerned for the future of a family.
2. He is concerned for the future of a generation.
In those particular examples there is no difference (apart from the meanings of the final words themselves of course).
 

Alexey86

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In those particular examples there is no difference (apart from the meanings of the final words themselves of course).

I take it to mean that the future of a family is "obviously" referring to his family.

1. I see a family outside.
2. I see some family outside.
3. I see the family outside.
4. I see my family outside


5. He is concerned for the future of a family.
6. He is concerned for the future of some family.

7. He is concerned for the future of the family.
8. He is concerned for the future of his family.

Questions:
1. What exactly determines the difference between 1 and 5 and similarity between 2 and 6 in terms of (in)definiteness/reference of family?
2. Is there any
difference between 3 and 7 in terms of (in)definiteness/reference of family?
3. Would any singular noun with the indefinite article mean his after the future of in 5?
 
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