ほっこりしませんか? (rirakuma) wrote in linguaphiles,
ほっこりしませんか?
rirakuma
linguaphiles

Why is it that American and Canadian (are there any others?) can be used as both adjectives and nouns e.g. "I am American." and "I am an American."? Is it something to do with the -an ending?
Tags: english
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 29 comments

steepholm

July 12 2014, 22:50:09 UTC 10 months ago

There are plenty of others: Mexican, German, Italian, Belgian, Croatian, Russian, etc. etc.

The '-an' ending is certainly relevant, but though it's a bit archaic you may also come across '-ese' being nominalized this way: e.g. "He is a Chinese." For reasons I don't entirely understand this has fallen out of favour, though, and may even be seen as offensive.

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 00:01:49 UTC 10 months ago

For me, "Croat" is the nominal form corresponding to "Croatian". But I can see potential here for a distinction parallel to "Burmese" vs "Burman". That is, a "Croatian" could be any citizen of the Republic of Croatia regardless of ethnicity with "Croat" restricted to members of the eponymous ethnic group. Same for "Serbian" vs "Serb" or "Slovenian" vs "Slovene".

More likely though, this is indicative of further leveling of "anomalous" root forms. Cf. "Argentinian", now preferred to older "Argentine".

come_to_think

July 13 2014, 00:04:02 UTC 10 months ago

What *does* one call a Chinese, then? "Chinaman" got reclassified as offensive in the 1930s, IIRC.

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 00:09:10 UTC 10 months ago Edited:  July 13 2014, 00:10:52 UTC

"Chinese person" (Which, after all, what they call themselves, i.e. 中國人.)

come_to_think

July 13 2014, 00:28:52 UTC 10 months ago

Couldn't that equally well be translated as "Chinaman"?
George Orwell, somewhere, recalled having to go thru _Burmese Days_ for the second edition and replace "Chinaman" (which had suddenly become offensive) with "Chinese". All in vain!
Does the taboo extend to other -ese words (Vietnamese, Japanese, Milanese)?

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 01:10:53 UTC 10 months ago

I would say no, since Standard Chinese for "man" is 男. 人 is gender-neutral, which no longer applies to "man" in contemporary English.

Any gentilic in -ese used as a predicate noun sounds odd to me. "A Maltese" is a dog, not a person.

come_to_think

10 months ago

muckefuck

10 months ago

biascut

July 13 2014, 08:18:59 UTC 10 months ago

Lots of countries don't have nouns for individuals of that particular nationality except by adding -man, -woman or person - there's no such thing as an English, a Welsh or an Irish, either!

come_to_think

July 13 2014, 14:32:03 UTC 10 months ago

The -man & -woman nouns are standard English words, the idiomatic counterparts of "American" (n.) and the rest. They do have disadvantages: (1) They are marked for gender, so that they share the awkwardness of the personal pronouns when one wants to speak generally; (2) the -woman forms are hard to stress naturally (particularly when the preceding syllable is unstressed, as in "Englishwoman"), so they tend to be avoided when possible. I have never (until this thread) seen or heard "person" used for this purpose; it strikes me as desperately artificial, like "Jewish person" for "Jew".

One might also mention the back-formation singular -ee from -ese, as in Bret Harte's "heathen Chinee" & Robert Louis Stevenson's "little Turk or Japanee". To judge from those satirical uses, it seems to have been vulgar but not necessarily offensive.

biascut

July 13 2014, 14:43:02 UTC 10 months ago

Exactly - I would always rephrase to say, "as someone who is English...." rather than "as an Englishwoman..." or "as an English person..."

jubelhunden

July 12 2014, 22:51:31 UTC 10 months ago

As well as Russian and I'm also wondering why:)

come_to_think

July 13 2014, 00:07:21 UTC 10 months ago

Oddly, *in* Russian, AFAIK, "Russkiy (-aya)" is the *only* such word that is the same for adjective & noun. All the other national words have distinct forms, e.g., "Amerikanskiy" (a.), "Amerikanets, Amerikanka" (n.).

cypukambl

July 13 2014, 03:47:47 UTC 10 months ago

As a Russian you must remember word "военный". It can also be used as a noun and as an adjective. The principle is the same: an adjective, that is used to describe some feature or an attribute of an object, at some moment begins to be used without mentioning the object itself. Like: "I am an American citizen" -> "I am an American".

jubelhunden

July 13 2014, 08:22:12 UTC 10 months ago

Exactly:) And the opposite to "военный" - "гражданский" that is used as a noun everywhere.

maju01

July 13 2014, 00:06:08 UTC 10 months ago

Australian works the same way. I am both Australian and an Australian.

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 00:08:26 UTC 10 months ago

-i and -in(e) tend to work the same way, e.g. Iraqi, Florentine, Montenegrin. (But: Philippine vs Filipino.)

cypukambl

July 13 2014, 03:49:36 UTC 10 months ago

Here works a simple principle: an adjective, that is used to describe some feature or an attribute of an object, at some moment begins to be used without mentioning the object itself. Like: "I am an American citizen" -> "I am an American".

sidheag

July 13 2014, 08:02:06 UTC 10 months ago

But you have to explain why this has happened for American and not, say, for Spanish...

cypukambl

July 13 2014, 08:23:29 UTC 10 months ago Edited:  July 13 2014, 08:37:09 UTC

Some questions don`t have answers: Why "Maltese", not "Maltian" or "Maltish"? Why "Spanish", not "Spainian" or "Spainese"? Why "Italian", not "Italish"?
Being non native English speaker, I got used to such illogical things and just stopped wondering.

> why this has happened for American and not, say, for Spanish...
Why this happened even for Maltese and Italian and not for Spanish?

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 17:38:29 UTC 10 months ago

Maltese must've been borrowed from Italian maltese, whereas Spanish is derived from earlier Spainish. (The name of Spain itself entered English via Norman French.) The local name for Italy is Italia and most European languages use some reflex of Mediaeval Latin Italianus, e.g. Fr. italien, Ger. italienisch, Dut. Italiaans, etc.

cypukambl

July 13 2014, 17:53:22 UTC 10 months ago

Maltese, Chinese, Japanese, Portugese, Siamese...
Spanish, Scottish, Polish, Swedish, Finnish...
Italian, Russian, American, Hungarian, Indian...
Why so?
Why not, for example:
Maltish, Chinian, Japanish, Portugalian, Siamian?
Spainian, Scottian, Swedese, Finnese?
Italese, Russish, Americish, Hungarish, Indese?

muckefuck

10 months ago

cypukambl

10 months ago

muckefuck

July 13 2014, 17:43:31 UTC 10 months ago

Simple: the word Spaniard already existed. As a general rule, the prior existence of a root noun blocks the derivation of a new deadjectival noun. (There are exceptions, of course, as with the nominal use Croatian and Serbian mentioned above--but even here there is the possibility of new contrast [nationality vs ethnicity] which would justify the existence of two distinct terms.)

sidheag

July 13 2014, 08:00:43 UTC 10 months ago

I am a Briton (old-fashioned)
I am a Brit (informal, now more common than the above)
I am a Scot (standard)

- these are all words ending in -n or -t which are only nouns, not adjectives. (You can say I am British/Scottish, but you can't miss out the article.)

muckefuck

July 20 2014, 19:28:25 UTC 10 months ago

I don't think final letters are in any way relevant. Consider: I'm a Swede, I'm a Serb, I'm a Basque, I'm a Slovak, etc. What's important is that, in all these cases, the name of the country is derived from the name of the inhabitants rather than vice versa.

imps85

July 16 2014, 22:04:44 UTC 10 months ago

I am European, I am German, I am blue. In German they are treated like adjectives, not nouns(which is the reason why they are spelled in lower case in German),

muckefuck

July 20 2014, 19:23:11 UTC 10 months ago

It depends on the syntax, doesn't it? Ich bin deutsch vs Ich bin Deutscher. (Interestingly, it's the predicate noun which is declined like an adjective rather than the predicate adjective, which is invariable. Cf. Sie ist deutsch vs Sie ist Deutsche.)