Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Demonyms and Adjectives
Question: The demonym of Britain is British or Briton. The demonym of England
is English or Englander. What would be the demonym of Albion, an
old name of Britain? Would it be Albionian, Albionese, Albionish, etc.?
How can we determine which is the right one, when it's rarely used?

A lot of U.S. states use its name as an adjective (ex. ''California
government'' instead of ''Californian government''), even when an
adjective could be easily formed. Why is this usage commonplace?

Reply: I am not aware of any adjective of Ablion in regular use other than "Albion".

As odd as it may sound, not every place name has a distinct related adjective,
particularly when the form would be considered phonologically "awkward". An example
of this is "Massachusetts". The closest I was able to get from native speakers was
"Masser" or a student from the University of Massachusetss (aks "U Mass")

As it turns out, English can form adjectives via zero-affixation (i.e., an invisible suffix),
so in some cases that's the option used. In terms of the other usage, I think zero-
affixation is preferred when referring to the state as a governing entity rather than to
individuals from a state.

It's also the case that the formation of new deonyms is very complex and irregular, so
it's hard to make firm predictions for all nouns. Asking what they should be is a
frequent question, and sometimes the right answer is to ask a local, but there really are
no locals to ask in this case...

FYI-A Google search of "Albionish" and "Albionese" did produce results, but they were
from fantasy or gaming related genres, but really I have never heard this in academic
discourse.

Hope this helps.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
 
Date: 17-Dec-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Demonyms and Adjectives    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (17-Dec-2012)
  2. Re: Demonyms and Adjectives    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (17-Dec-2012)
  3. Re: Demonyms and Adjectives    James L Fidelholtz     (18-Dec-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions