addition of 'the' to plural nouns followed by the relative pronoun 'that'

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
I have been wondering what shift in meaning adding 'the' to those bare plural nouns would cause. My guess is it would cause readers to imagine they had known 'the cars that hand back control to the human driver,' or 'the cars that shoppers found prohibitively expensive when they are new' as presuppositions although they are not salient. Is this right?

But there is an elephant in the cab with even this rudimentary form of autonomy. Many companies are planning cars that, in the event of an emergency, hand back control to the human driver. (Google, a notable exception, plans a car with no steering wheel or brake pedal.) The potentially fatal weakness of this strategy is that it assumes “drivers” will be paying attention at the split second they are most needed, instead of being busy, say, taking a nap.
(New York Times)

Electric and hybrid cars often languish on dealer lots because they are too pricey for many new-car shoppers to consider. But on the used-car market, these "green" rides are among the most sought-after and fastest-selling vehicles. Some models are also more affordable than ever.
In many cases, cars that shoppers found prohibitively expensive when new — like the battery-powered Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius Plug-In hybrid — are priced more like traditional cars on the used market, according to a study by research company iSeeCars.com.
(Today)
 
  • Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    No article should be used before "cars" there because they are not specific cars and in the first sentence they cannot be specific cars at all, because of the context.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi. This is a hypothetical question of 'if' without regard to their naturalness. If 'the' were added, would it cause readers to feel they had known the attributes somehow as presuppositions though most likely they were so very subtle?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Be that as it may, I would like to see what subtle change the definite article might bring about, Englishmypassion. I highly regard your inputs for me, and all your messages are so very valuable.:)

    Here is the background:
    I would be happy if I could see the inherence of the definite article when attached to plural nouns with relative clauses following them. One of the well-known SECONDARY attributes is that with 'the' IN MOST OF THE CASES the speakers are talking about all of the members of the category. But that's secondary interpretation.

    My query here is ...
    whether definiteness could be there because the relative clause was there or because you had a presupposition of the attribute that the relative clause conveys; i.e., you might say inwardly, "Ah, thinking hard I might have heard of it somewhere," or "Ah, it COULD exist if all needed conditions were met."

    With 'planning the cars that, in the event of an emergency, hand back control to the human driver,' I presume you might have to have no other option but to suppose someone could have thought about a car that could switch it back to the human driver. (???)

    I solicit any and all thoughts from anyone on this forum.

    Hiro
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    You have a group of cars. The cars that don't hand back control do X. The cars that do hand back control do Y. In general, cars are a really wonderful thing.

    So, yes, you might be tempted to put "the" in front of "cars" in your example, but the author felt it was general enough to leave it out.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Thanks, and hello, RedwoodGrove.

    Suppose, and this 'suppose' should be a wild 'suppose' ..., you actually had placed "the" before "cars," would you have done it simply because 'that ... to the human driver' is there, or because you thought the cars were one category that naturally existed in the world?
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    I think RG used "the" because he was talking about a group of cars, not all the cars in the world -- that's one of the basic usages of the definite article. That's why I didn't reject the possibility of using the definite article in your second example in the OP. If the author used "the" before "cars" in that sentence, we would suppose he was talking about a particular group of cars whose prices the shoppers assessed/had a look at.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    My whole query is whether the definiteness in these two cases would be governed (1) simply by (the existence of) the subsequent relative clause, or (2) by the (possibly, faintest) presupposition of the attribute that the relative clause conveys, if 'the' were placed. It's a question of perception, in a manner of speaking.

    I think RG used "the" because he was talking about a group of cars, not all the cars in the world ...
    Yes, I plain know what RG meant. (Thanks, Englishmypassion, for your contributions! :))

    I'm putting up this question as to whether this particular usage of 'the,' which is placed before the plural nouns that are directly followed by relative pronouns, would be of cataphoric reference or (presupposed) anaphoric.

    (By 'presupposed' herein, I mean something that could be assumed from the present discourse)
     
    Last edited:

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    As a grammar buff, I can't help using those terms. :) Cataphoric refers to the part after the noun, anaphoric before it. Presupposition is as opposed to assertion, something you can deduce from the context that forms the basis for the mention.
     
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