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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Different word order in English and German|
|Question:||I am an English translator working in a German-speaking area. I am working with the province right now on giving English names to major landmarks. I am having a hard time explaining to the locals why the word order we are used to in English is ''backwards'' from German word order. I would like to name ''Schloss XYZ'', for example, ''XYZ Castle''. But they feel that ''Castle XYZ'' is correct. Is there a linguistic explanation that you can give me to help them understand? I have shown them lists and lists of castles in England, Wales and Scotland but I think a technical explanation might help. Thank you!|
|Reply:||As Prof Stahlke notes, some rules are arbitrary. Although English is a Germanic language, its long history with French has caused English word order to change in many ways and it sometimes means that there can be a mish mash of word orders in areas such as place names, per the mountain examples (Mt Fuji vs South Mountain). FYI - Another way to demonstrate actual English usage is to point to Google hits. For instance, "Windsor Castle" is a castle in Britain. "Castle Windsor" is a computer utility. Also, I can get millions of hits for "Stirling Castle", "Bamburg Castle", "Edinburgh Castle", "Caernarfon (Carnarvon) Castle" , "Dublin Castle", "Cinderella Castle (Disney)" and so forth. These hits include the official tourist sites for these castles, and they would be the experts on the word order issue! A linguist would say that no "logical" grammar rule would override actual attested usage, and for once the use of "Castle X" use seems pretty consistent. Even new castles like Cinderella Castle are being named in this pattern which is evidence that this pattern is the expected one in modern English grammar. P.S. - Someone in the province may find a castle name that starts with "Castle X" in English, but I suspect it would be considered archaic or "odd" sounding in English.|
|Reply From:||Elizabeth J Pyatt click here to access email|