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Collective adjectives

Most countries have adjectives which refer to things which belong to or are from that country.
America - American
England - English
France - French
Canada - Canadian
Japan - Japanese
Italy - Italian

Put the word "the" in front of the adjective and you have an adjective representing a noun phrase. "The English" is short for "The English people". And yet - any of these adjectives ending in a -sh/-ch sound is plural, and any of them ending in -ian is singular.
Singular: the American, the Canadian, the Italian
Plural: the English, the French, the Japanese

Why? Where does this pattern come from? And is this related to the plural of "fish"?

P.S. And since when has a macro been defined as a "picture with a caption"? I've seen this several times in the past 24 hours.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 1st, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
'Macro' is an evolving term, like many things that have become subsumed in internet parlance. I think it has been used in this way for a few years on the nets, but for some reasons cat macros (and their derivations) have really come to the fore over the past few months. Wikipedia has information, but I can't be bothered to find it right now.

As for the rest, I can't help you.
Jun. 1st, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
And since when has a macro been defined as a "picture with a caption"?
I've been wondering this recently too. It turns out that it's a contraction of 'image macro' although I'm still not sure why that's valid terminology in this context.

steer has been playing with these things recently, it seems.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
In many cases, "captioned image" (or something) would be more correct, but "macro" is quickly becoming the accepted term, not just . On the internet, anyway--it seems to have taken hold on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_macro.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
Hmm, not sure what that "not just" was meant to be doing ...
Jun. 2nd, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
all things are related to fish. I thought you knew that.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
My sister gave me a mnemonic for this last week: a lovely squishy fish keychain.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 2nd, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah, image macro
I have to say, I don't follow your analogy. What would an online micro be in this case?
Jun. 2nd, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)
I have no idea why some national adj. become singular and others pl. when turned into a noun, but I'm fascinated by the problem -- thanks for raising it.

The Dutch vs a German.

A Czech; can one speak of "the Czech" (even if one spells it properly)?

On the other hand, an Iraqi is, and the Iraqi[s] are

The Swedish is rightfully collective since one of them is a Swede. Likewise a Scot, and together the Scottish (or is that last one correct?)

And I like your logo (the one on this page).
Jun. 2nd, 2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
I think both are incorrect. Swedish and Scottish are adjectives not used as collective nouns for the people. It's Swedes and Scots
Jun. 2nd, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC)
Websters 2nd has as its first definition of Swedish the Swedish people collectively. Neither the OED or the AHD include that as a definition.

Scottish is accepted as a collective noun by all three, though the OED says it's rare, which is a fair comment on both words -- they seem a bit odd to me, but not wrong.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
Also, the Dutch vs. a Dutchman, and Germans vs. a German. And one Czech, two Czechs. But note there that the -ch is pronounced more like a k, rather than the other examples, where the ending sounds like -sh.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the examples!

-i endings do seem to be versatile. Saudi is another.

A friend I knew in Toronto (neither of us live there anymore) made the icon from a Terry Pratchett quote.

(Deleted comment)
Jun. 2nd, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! The first comprehensible explanation I've read! It's still very odd though.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
IANAPhilologist, but I learned most of my German and Latin from philologists.

I hinted at this above, but I think you're off track here. All of your plural examples are ones where, based on the singular, each one implies "men" or "people" at the end, which you've said. But I doubt that there's a fish relationship, unless you go back to linguistic relationships that are back to basic I-E.

Look at your examples: French and English have Germanic adjectival endings; Italian and Japanese have (more or less) Romance endings.

The Germanic endings lose the proper endings of declination in English, and the Romance endings lose the signifiers of number and gender. As for the pluralization, there are lots of words that have -sh/-ch endings that take an -es in the plural. But they are nouns. Fish is an outlier in such cases.

But I think any pattern there is simply in the original forms of the words. And there are some that reflect both influences: Spaniard/Spanish?

Jun. 2nd, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)


That doesn't account for Japanese/Chinese etc. though.
Jun. 3rd, 2007 10:02 am (UTC)
Do you think some of the adjectival/noun uses depend on who is speaking?

Lebanese people say "a Lebanese" or "the Lebanese" with no additional nouns for the singular, and "(the) Lebanese", with no nouns, for the plural, while American English speakers use all but "the Lebanese" (pl) as adjectives, with nouns following.

As for the rest, I'm trying to think it out through jokes like "An American, a Frenchman, an Englishman, and a German walk into a bar". It seems to me that both American and German are still adjectival, referring to absent but understood nouns.

It also seems to me that I really don't know English grammar :-(
Jun. 3rd, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
Frank is not an adjective, it's a noun. Frankish is the adjective. And the Germanic adjectival ending I was referring to is -isch, in English, -ish.
English comes from Angle-isch (e dropped in the elision).

(And you should know that Franks aren't the same as French!) But Frankish and Französisch aren't too far off. My guess is that French comes from an elision of Frankish, though.

As for the second part, I don't follow. Japanese and Chinese follow the Romance model of adding -ese to a place name to get the adjective. Pekinese, Inglese, Cantonese, etc. Think about Latin place names and their endings: Mediolanum/Mediolanensis (modern Milan/Milanese), Lugdunum/Lugdunensis. I'm almost positive that the -ese is the modern (or maybe Italianate/Spanish) form of -ensis.

In terms of why each one? Usage, most likely. In places where people were more familiar with a place with its -ish ending, it remained in common usage. In terms of places that were better known through a literary tradition that reached back to Latin usage (and here, I'm including many Asian place names, because the Europeans who wrote about them first wrote about them in Latin), the -ese ending is the one we tend to use.
Jun. 3rd, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for asking about macros - I had accepted the term, but without understanding at all where it came from.
Jun. 5th, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
...and then there's the whole problem of Inuit, Inuk and Innu, which I can never keep straight.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )