all the butter [Nongeneric vs. unique reference]

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mekman99

Senior Member
Berber
Is a nongeneric reference the same as a unique reference?
Examples:
- I used all the butter that was in the butter dish.
- Mr John went to the school to meet his son's teacher.



Thank you !
 
  • mekman99

    Senior Member
    Berber
    I'm not quite sure what you mean by "unique reference". Can you explain that a bit? For that matter, what is a nongeneric reference?
    Well, for example:
    Generic: many people do not like milk.

    Nongeneric: The milk is on the table.

    Unique reference it means there is only one, like the sun, the North Pole...or unique by convention, e.g., the prime minister has just resigned.
    So I don'k know if we can classify "the prime minister" and "the milk" as both unique references, since when we say the milk on the table the hearer and the speaker both know what milk, as the hearer and speaker in "the prime minister knwo both what minister.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Where did you learn these classifications? I might just be ignorant of new nomenclature by they don't ring a bell. I would talk about zero article ("milk"), indefinite article ("some milk") and definite article ("the milk").

    I'm not quite sure "unique" fits here. For example, I could say "Mr. John went to all the schools in the city to meet with the teachers." The definite article ("the") is the most common way to express this but we are talking about more than one school, so "school" is not unique. It is specific in that it refers to a particular collection of schools, but not unique.
     

    mekman99

    Senior Member
    Berber
    Where did you learn these classifications? I might just be ignorant of new nomenclature by they don't ring a bell. I would talk about zero article ("milk"), indefinite article ("some milk") and definite article ("the milk").

    I'm not quite sure "unique" fits here. For example, I could say "Mr. John went to all the schools in the city to meet with the teachers." The definite article ("the") is the most common way to express this but we are talking about more than one school, so "school" is not unique. It is specific in that it refers to a particular collection of schools, but not unique.
    I found these notions in Lock's book "Functional English grammar" 1996, Cambridge
    So what's the difference between specific and nongeneric? they sound similar?
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    If we are venturing into Cambridge grammar I'm in over my head. It is a completely different way of classifying objects, in my experience here on WordReference. I'll leave this to someone else.
     

    mekman99

    Senior Member
    Berber
    If we are venturing into Cambridge grammar I'm in over my head. It is a completely different way of classifying objects, in my experience here on WordReference. I'll leave this to someone else.
    Thank you anyway JamesM. I see often the word "nongeneric" in research papers, especially those dealing with the grammatical articles. For instance, Hawkins classifies the nongeneric use of "the" into eight types in what he called "Location theory" !
     

    mekman99

    Senior Member
    Berber
    Could just someone tell me:
    Running is good for the heart
    Is this generic or specific ?
    I think if it's generic, then all other uses of "the" will be nongeneric.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Running is good for the heart
    Is this generic or specific ?
    I don't think one necessarily excludes the other.
    Running is good for hearts in general (hence generic), but at the same time, although this is perhaps not (but see below) a reference to a specific heart, it still refers to a specific part of the body.

    Who said running is good for the heart? And to whom was it said? Doctor to patient? If so, the doctor may have meant "I recommend you take up running. It would be good for your heart."
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Could just someone tell me:
    Running is good for the heart
    Is this generic or specific ?
    I think if it's generic, then all other uses of "the" will be nongeneric.
    "The cheetah is the fastest animal on land."

    This "the" is generic, if I understand your definition of generic.

    "We saw a cheetah in the wild near some gazelles. The cheetah chased after the gazelles and caught the slowest one."

    This "the" is specific.
     
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