LINGUIST List 3.908

Wed 18 Nov 1992

Disc: Placenames

Editor for this issue: <>


  • "Ellen F. Prince", Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish
  • , Articles in geographical names
  • Thomas E Payne, Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish
  • "J.J.Higgins - Education", Re: 3.904 Names

    Message 1: Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish

    Date: Tue, 17 Nov 92 11:40:35 ESRe: 3.904 Names, Spanish
    From: "Ellen F. Prince" <>
    Subject: Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish

    for Ian MacKay <>:

    i'm not ukrainian, much less a ukrainian nationalist, but from my understanding the switch to article-less _ukraine_ is not so stupid as you might think. the crucial fact, which you didn't mention in your post, is that the word /ukrayna/ *means* 'border'. with the article, the noun itself has the syntax and therefore perhaps sense of a common noun, which evokes a russian point of view--it's the border from the point of view of russia, after all, not of (the) ukraine! without an article, it becomes more like a 'sense-lacking' proper name.

    the fact that ukrainian lacks articles simply means that, in ukrainian, it's ambiguous between an np containing a common noun and an np consisting of a simple proper noun. (there may actually be subtle syntactic/morphological differences between the two--i don't know.)

    of course, i have no idea what _yukon_ means, but, if it doesn't mean 'border' or something similar, the analogy doesn't quite hold.

    Message 2: Articles in geographical names

    Date: 17 Nov 92 13:41 EST
    From: <>
    Subject: Articles in geographical names

    Two or three years ago I became aware of an interesting and apparently rather abrupt language change which relates to articles in geographi- cal names -- in this case, the names for freeways in Southern Califor- nia. Most of the freeways in metropolitan L.A. have both names (the Hollywood Freeway, the Santa Monica Freeway) and highway numbers, from either the interstate or the old federal highway system (I-5, 101, etc.). When I was living in California, when we used numbers to refer to the freeways they were bare: "Follow 5 until you get to 101." This was still the case in 1975 when I left California to move east.

    In the mid- to late 80s three of my kids returned to (three different places in) California to go to college. After they had been there for a while, I was struck when visiting them by the fact that they all use "the" with the numerical names of the freeways -- the 5, the 101. Apparently this change is widespread; my mother, who is 80 years old and has lived continuously in California for over 40 years, now does the same.

    Have any of our California colleagues noted the source, diffusion pattern, and time course of this change?

    Paul Chapin

    Message 3: Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish

    Date: 17 Nov 1992 15:21:20 -0800Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish
    Subject: Re: 3.904 Names, Spanish

    In response to Ian Mackay, Yes, in English 'the' in front of a place name definitely is associated with colonial names. Some examples that readily come to mind: The Cameroons, The Philippines (from the Philippine Islands, which is the colonial term), the West Indies, etc. Tom Payne, University of Oregon

    Message 4: Re: 3.904 Names

    Date: Tue, 17 Nov 92 15:52:05 GMRe: 3.904 Names
    From: "J.J.Higgins - Education" <>
    Subject: Re: 3.904 Names

    There must be many examples of the local word for river being misunderstood as the name of a particular river by visiting geographers. There are numerous River Avons in England. One other case is the Chao Phraya River which runs through Bangkok; on some old maps this appears as the Menam, mae nam being the Thai for river.

    John Higgins, J.HigginsUK.AC.BRISTOL