LINGUIST List 2.875

Fri 27 Dec 1991

Disc: Names

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  1. Henry Kucera, Re: 2.857 Names
  2. Michael Morse, NAMES

Message 1: Re: 2.857 Names

Date: Thu, 12 Dec 91 10:04:04 EST
From: Henry Kucera <>
Subject: Re: 2.857 Names
 Czech, of course, does not have articles but it does have determiners (called
 in conventional grammars "demonstrative pronouns"). The masc. sg. is 'ten',
fem. sg. 'ta'. Such an expression as 'Ten Donald...' would be far from unusual,
 and--at least to me--convey some emotional pointing, quite possibly one of
some frustration. So, it might well be that we do have an influence
here after all. I must admit, however, that the more accurate rendering of the
Czech 'Ten Donald...' would be 'That Donald...'. But perhaps Ivana is not a
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Message 2: NAMES

Date: Sun, 15 Dec 91 02:36:21 EST
From: Michael Morse <MMORSEVM1.YorkU.CA>
Subject: NAMES
Another thought on the definite article attached to a proper name.
In German, at least, there are constructions arising from this usage
which are rather difficult to translate without it. Consider this anecdote
from the life of Viennese composer Alban Berg, who once remarked: "Manch-
mal komm' ich mir wie der Beethoven vor; erst hinterher merk' ich, dass
ich hoechstens der Bizet bin." The sense is easy enough to convey in English:
"Sometimes I feel as though I were Beethoven; but then I realize, at best I'm
Bizet." A better choice: "Sometimes I feel like *a* Beethoven--but then I
realize I'm only *a* Bizet." [I suggest this variant because no one, to my
recollection, has mentioned the use of the indefinite article with names.]
But Berg does not say "a" Beethoven/Bizet, but "the" B/B; the German (and,
as we have seen from the conversations, other languages) allows one for one
further step in tightening exemplary specificity..
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