a or the: 'welcome to the Shinkansen'

Hiden

Senior Member
japanese
<<...>> Here is an announcement in a train. In this announcement, "the" is used twice. could it be replaced by "a"? In that case, is there any difference in meaning?

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Shinkansen. This is the KODAMA super express bound for Shin-osaka. We'll be stopping at all stations before arriving Shin-osaka terminal.

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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Although there are no doubt numerous trains running on that route, we usually talk about 'the' train assigned to a particular route. We say the KODAMA super express goes to Shin-osaka ten times a day, or it leaves at ten minutes to and twenty past the hour (i.e. 9.50, 10.20, 10.50 . . .). We say it reaches Shin-osaka in two hours, and it has a dining car, and so on: always talking about it as if there is just one of them, repeatedly running.
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Thank you for your insight. When I was a student, I learned that "a" is used to refer to new information, whereas "the" is used to refer to old information. In the example in question, does the rule work?
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That's generally true, but doesn't apply here. At the moment they're just saying, in effect, 'You've successfully caught the train you intended to catch.' It would be an unpleasant surprise if the train was new information!

    But contrast that with a similar announcement where the 'new information' idea is relevant. On an aeroplane you might hear something like this: 'Welcome to the Japan Airlines flight to Hong Kong. This is a Boeing 747 . . .'

    Again, it's really bad news if 'Japan Airlines flight to Hong Kong' is new information to the passengers, so the announcement can use 'the'. But then they do signal new information: this is a Boeing 747. So pay attention to the safety announcement about exits, because every plane is different. You might not have travelled on this kind before.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I think entangledbank has successfully explained how the rule does apply here: the information is "old" in the sense that the speaker expects the listeners to already know it.

    The above discussion all applies to the second "the" in the original sentence. For the first sentence, "welcome to the Shinkansen," I think it might help if we knew what the Shinkansen was. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen - it seems to be a place name for the system of fast trains?

    In English, some place names use "the" and some do not. It would probably be acceptable to say "welcome to Shinkansen" if it weren't already established that Shinkansen as a place name always uses "the" before it. But you would not say "a Shinkansen."
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Many thanks, entangledbank and Truffula. Could you let me make sure, Truffula. You're saying that the rule that "the" is used to refer to something you already know applies to both "the" in the first clause and "the" in the second clause of the example, aren't you?
     
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