typical American or typically American?

Hi,everyone.
Please help me with a problem which has long tortured me.
Several years ago, I read a novel by Gish Jen titled Typical American . I always think that the expression "typical American", if used as an adjectival compound, is derived from "typically American"; however, I have never been able to prove it.
Last week, a student of mine, who is preparing for next year's graduate school entrance test of another university, asked me to help her with 31 sentences she collected from the old test papers. Every one of the sentences has one and only one error and the test taker is required to locate that error and correct it. One of the sentences goes: The grape is the smoothly skinned juicy fruit of a woody vine.When I first read the sentence, I felt at a loss as to how to correct the sentence as I did not know what the problem is. The I went to my Longman dictionary and found on p. 1346 "dark-skinned/fair-skinned/smooth-skinned" listed at the entry of "skin". Then suddenly it reminded me of that unresolved problem of "typically American"/ "typical American". It also reminded me of "new born", "widely-accepted" and "frequently-used".
Just now I consulted Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English by Douglas Biber, et al. and read at the bottom of p. 533 that "We label as adverbs in these patterns words which are adjectival in form, though adverbial in function: new-born, free-spending." It seems that my reasoning about "typical American" being a derivative of "typically American" is justified. It seems so but I am not sure of it.
So, my questions are, does "typical American"(used as a compound adjective) come from "typically American" and can we still use "typically American" as in "a typically American way of doing things"? Or rather, is it that people use "typical American" for the sake of convenience? Can we also say "smoothly-skinned" and "a newly born baby"? And do we always need a hyphen between the two elements involved?
Thanks.
Richard
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    A typical American (adjective and noun) is the American you would expect to find in size, weight, shape, behavior, etc. You would probably figure out which qualities were being referenced based on the context.

    Typical American (compound adjective) would need a noun following: typical American attitude, typical American tourist, typical American car.

    Since America is a real melting pot, the typical American is anything but these days, but I think what is meant is a white, middle-class person with trditional American values (and I won't get into that).

    For "widely accepted" and "frequently used," you should drop the hyphens. In general, you're safest dropping hyphens after -ly words.

    As for your last questions, I would say "smooth-skinned" and "newborn baby."

    I read this pretty quickly, so forgive any questions or confusions I missed.
     
    A typical American (adjective and noun) is the American you would expect to find in size, weight, shape, behavior, etc. You would probably figure out which qualities were being referenced based on the context.

    Typical American (compound adjective) would need a noun following: typical American attitude, typical American tourist, typical American car.

    Since America is a real melting pot, the typical American is anything but these days, but I think what is meant is a white, middle-class person with trditional American values (and I won't get into that).

    For "widely accepted" and "frequently used," you should drop the hyphens. In general, you're safest dropping hyphens after -ly words.

    As for your last questions, I would say "smooth-skinned" and "newborn baby."

    I read this pretty quickly, so forgive any questions or confusions I missed.
    Thanks, Don. But I still hope that when you've got time, you will read my post carefully and then help me with all the problems I asked about.
    Thanks in advance.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Ok, I just looked at the sentence: The grape is the smoothly skinned juicy fruit of a woody vine.

    Since I don't see any other problems beyond smoothly, I would change the sentence to: The grape is the smooth-skinned, juicy fruit of a woody vine.

    As for your questions about parts of speech and rules, I'll leave those to others.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Adverbs modify adjectives, but in this case no adjective is being modified.

    If you say the typical American loves pizza, the word "American" there is a noun, and needs to be modified by an adjective.

    If you say the typical American house is larger than the typical Japanese house, the word "typical" is modifying "house" -- and so is an adjective modifying a noun.

    You would only say "typically American" if you were emphasizing how American something was, or the degree of Americaness something had:

    It is a typically American practice to use "gotten" as a past participle of get.
     
    Adverbs modify adjectives, but in this case no adjective is being modified.

    If you say the typical American loves pizza, the word "American" there is a noun, and needs to be modified by an adjective.

    If you say the typical American house is larger than the typical Japanese house, the word "typical" is modifying "house" -- and so is an adjective modifying a noun.

    You would only say "typically American" if you were emphasizing how American something was, or the degree of Americaness something had:

    It is a typically American practice to use "gotten" as a past participle of get.
    Thanks.
    As for "the typical American house", we can certainly say both "typical" and "American" modify the head "house", but I get the impression from my reading that many native speakers of English simply use "a typical American+ noun" to mean "a typically American + noun".
     

    elissaf

    New Member
    American English
    "typical American" [vs] "typically American"
    I think you're all missing a point, and it's because nationality is a poor noun for examples, but I do have one: I married an Aussie and moved to Australia. I've been a dual citizen for a dozen years. As a latecomer, I am not a typical Australian. However, given the way I act and the language nuances I've picked up, I do a pretty good job. Most days I can say I'm typically Australian.

    A better example would be: South Italy is warm and humid with a certain temperature and level of precipitation. You could say it has typical Mediterranean climate. It typifies the climate. (Italy may even be the paradigmatic example.)

    You could never say "Italy typically has / has typically Mediterranean climate". That would mean that usually Italy has Mediterranean climate, but from time to time it differs.... it has the climate from elsewhere.

    Cheers,
    Elissaf
     
    I think you're all missing a point, and it's because nationality is a poor noun for examples, but I do have one: I married an Aussie and moved to Australia. I've been a dual citizen for a dozen years. As a latecomer, I am not a typical Australian. However, given the way I act and the language nuances I've picked up, I do a pretty good job. Most days I can say I'm typically Australian.

    A better example would be: South Italy is warm and humid with a certain temperature and level of precipitation. You could say it has typical Mediterranean climate. It typifies the climate. (Italy may even be the paradigmatic example.)

    You could never say "Italy typically has / has typically Mediterranean climate". That would mean that usually Italy has Mediterranean climate, but from time to time it differs.... it has the climate from elsewhere.

    Cheers,
    Elissaf
    Hi, Elissaf.

    Thanks for responding to my post.

    May I interpret your Typical Australian example this way? When you deliberately imitate Australians in doing things, you can be said to be typically Australian. Do you mean that in this situation you cannot be said to be typical Australian? Imagine, when you've lived in Australia looooooooong enough and you have acquired almost all typical tastes of Australians and go back to visit your relatives, is it possible for them to be surprised at what a typical Aussie you've morphed into?
     
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