de / de la / del

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Here are 3 sentences:

Juana es la hermana de Juan Carlos.
El libro es de la tia Julia.
Aqui esta el perro del abuelo.

Please explain why "de" in front of Juan Carlos but tia and perro both require definite article.

Thanks, ~D

4468 views
updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by La-Cosa

15 Answers

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Samdie, I agree with pretty much everything you said, but I hope you will agree that despite what you or I might wish, the great majority of English speakers today are unaware that vulgar has any other meaning besides that of profane or obscene, at least judging from how the word is used almost universally today. I also hope you will back me up on this, since Heidita seems disinclined to believe me on this one.

On the other hand, since I was only trying to help her with her English, if she doesn't want to believe me, I guess I shouldn't care.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Go find some native English speakers, from anywhere, and ask them to describe what vulgar language means, and to give examples. I feel certain that they will all say pretty much the same thing, that it means profane language.
I wish you hadn't said that quite the way you did. In my opinion, there are a number of phrases (and among them, those that appear in the first two dictionary entries that Heidita supplied) that preserve the meaning of "pertaining to the 'common herd'".

In past discussions that treated the question of "acceptable usage" within the forum, I have often been bothered by the use of "vulgar" and "profane" to mean what I would prefer to call "obscene". Even "dirty language" (although the phrase reflects what I consider to be an unfortunate [perhaps, even, benighted] view of the world) is preferable to "vulgar language". One could, perhaps, attempt to promote the use of "demotic" to refer to the language of the "unwashed masses" but, alas, I doubt that it would catch on.

In this age of widespread democracy and "political correctness", it has become very difficult to refer to the linguistic habits of the rude, ill-educated, (at best) semi-literate majority. One can employ expressions such as "everyday speech" / "casual conversation" et al. but the simple fact is that the patrician "everyday speech" is quite different from that of the plebe. It may not be better but it is, most definitely, different. If only for that reason, I would like to see "vulgar" retain (revert to) its original meaning.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by samdie
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Yes, I read that dictionary gloss before I first posted, and while I am a huge fan of dictionaries, I think in this case the lexicographers are lagging behind the real world (by quite a few decades).' Go find some native English speakers, from anywhere, and ask them to describe what vulgar language means, and to give examples. I feel certain that they will all say pretty much the same thing, that it means profane language.

' This is not unusual. Not too many years ago (in my lifetime), dictionaries defined "nice" as variously meaning fussy, shy, wanton, and minute, among other things, with those definitions coming ahead of the current meaning of "pleasing." The fact that no one has actually used the word in those meanings for a very long time didn't seem to faze the lexicographers.

Anyway, let us know the result of your survey, should you decide to conduct one. I, for one, am sure about how the word vulgar is used in American English.

And you are still ignoring my question!

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Actually, I am not at all convinced that the word is so differently used in English. This is the definition by Miriam Webster:

vul·gar

1 a: generally used, applied, or accepted b: understood in or having the ordinary sense

2: vernacular

3 a: of or relating to the common people : plebeian b: generally current : public c: of the usual, typical, or ordinary kind

4 a: lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste : coarse b: morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross c: ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display : pretentious

5 a: offensive in language : earthy b: lewdly or profanely indecent

Only number 5 gives your definition of the term, so I think we can agree on the fact that it can be used like I used it.

However, the same difference exists in Spanish. Vulgar is normally understood as "offensive or badly spoken", but not *necessarily *so.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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Vulgar then came to mean "deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement." From such uses vulgar has continued to go downhill, and at present "crudely indecent" is among the commonest senses of the word.

This is the sense I was referring to, however the highlighted part is probably a very good definition of vulgar in the sense we often used it here.

But if you read carefully you'll see that it is talking about a past period in the evolution of the word, not its current usage. As it says above, the meaning "has continued to go downhill," and today, the vast majority of the time, it is only used to refer to obscene language.

But no one has answered my question about the impact of adding the article to a person's name. That is, does "la Heidita" really fall into the category of obscene/profane/vulgar'

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Vulgar is an example of pejoration, the process by which a word develops negative meanings over time. The ancestor of vulgar, the Latin word vulgris (from vulgus, "the common people"), meant "of or belonging to the common people, everyday," as well as "belonging to or associated with the lower orders." Vulgris also meant "ordinary," "common (of vocabulary, for example)," and "shared by all." .... Vulgar then came to mean "deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement." From such uses vulgar has continued to go downhill, and at present "crudely indecent" is among the commonest senses of the word.

This is the sense I was referring to, however the highlighted part is probably a very good definition of vulgar in the sense we often used it here.

El habla vulgar o común, se sobrentiende que me refiero al (mal) uso del idioma,

Sin embargo, vulgar normalmente se toma como ofensivo en otros contextos, ya se ha aludido al contenido sexual.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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Creo que quisiste decir "colloquial," ya que "vulgar" en inglés significa grosero. Vulgar es un amigo falso en este caso.

No, she really meant "vulgar" in the sense of distasteful and somewhat impolite, but not necessarily that rude (although it can be offensive too).

But in modern English, in the vast majority of contexts, the word vulgar means crudely indecent. Specifically, it is used to refer to something that has to do with sex, sexual organs, excretory functions, and so forth. That is, it refers to things considered profane or "dirty." Vulgar language will get a student expelled from school, or a forero banned from this site. Does adding the definite article to a person's name really have that kind of impact? If not, I still think that "vulgar language" is not appropriate in this case.

Here is what the dictionary says about the modern use of this word.

Word History: The word vulgar now brings to mind off-color jokes and offensive epithets, but it once had more neutral meanings. Vulgar is an example of pejoration, the process by which a word develops negative meanings over time. The ancestor of vulgar, the Latin word vulgris (from vulgus, "the common people"), meant "of or belonging to the common people, everyday," as well as "belonging to or associated with the lower orders." Vulgris also meant "ordinary," "common (of vocabulary, for example)," and "shared by all." An extension of this meaning was "sexually promiscuous," a sense that could have led to the English sense of "indecent." Our word, first recorded in a work composed in 1391, entered English during the Middle English period, and in Middle English and later English we find not only the senses of the Latin word mentioned above but also related senses. What is common may be seen as debased, and in the 17th century we begin to find instances of vulgar that make explicit what had been implicit. Vulgar then came to mean "deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement." From such uses vulgar has continued to go downhill, and at present "crudely indecent" is among the commonest senses of the word.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
0
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Creo que quisiste decir "colloquial," ya que "vulgar" en inglés significa grosero. Vulgar es un amigo falso en este caso.

No, she really meant "vulgar" in the sense of distasteful and somewhat impolite, but not necessarily than rude (although it can be offensive too). To use an article with people's name is not simply colloquial; only certain people use it among themselves, and they'd definitely refrain from using it with others or in more "refined" circles, for it can be derogatory to use it for people who don't approve of it. Many people (specially adults) would consider it even offensive. Let's just say that my parents have told me off many times as a child for using such language in front of them. Slang, maybe, but not colloquial.

Without generalizing, of course, many of the people I know who use the article (including mothers) with their own family members, call their daughters "cho'''" (a rude slang for vagina) shouting in front of everybody in the street.

In Catalan, if I am not mistaken, the article is used with people's names even in formal and written situations. For some of them, this habit is difficult to control when they change from one language to another.

As you pointed out in your previous post, "la hermana" refers to the definite sister, but would that sound like you are talking about someone who's called "hermana" if the article is not used here?

You've got it the other way around. No article: it is person's name. Use the article for everything else. "La hermana" is most definitely not a name.

By the way, do you know anyone called "Hermana"? I have a Portuguese friend called "Hermano" (I don't know how it is written), and no one uses the article to refer to him.

updated ABR 24, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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I wasn't translating those sentences, but explaining how they are interpreted. "Grandpa's dog" doesn't make sense without context, e.g. a conversation among family members with a command grandfather. But the point is, without the article, you are not talking about the father of a person's mother or father, but about someone whose name is Grandfather.

As you pointed out in your previous post, "la hermana" refers to the definite sister, but would that sound like you are talking about someone who's called "hermana" if the article is not used here?

Thank you,

Marco

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by Marco-T
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you can never place an article, unless in vulgar language, before a proper name.

Creo que quisiste decir "colloquial," ya que "vulgar" en inglés significa grosero. Vulgar es un amigo falso en este caso.

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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I wasn't translating those sentences, but explaining how they are interpreted. "Grandpa's dog" doesn't make sense without context, e.g. a conversation among family members with a command grandfather. But the point is, without the article, you are not talking about the father of a person's mother or father, but about someone whose name is Grandfather.

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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El perro del abuelo (belongs to some grandpa)

Thanks, lazarus for your explanation.

But I think the last example sounds weird. I don't think that "belongs to some grandpa" makes sense.

Was what you were trying to say "belongs to someone's grandpa"?

Marco

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by Marco-T
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I'm not sure that you completely answered her question. You explained why you DO NOT use the definite article immediately before proper names. it is not ..de**l **Juan Carlos.

I don't see an explanation, however, why the definite article is used before tía or abuelo. (you explained the DON'T, but not the DO)

I will, then:

Juana es (la) hermana de Juan Carlos.

If we have been talking about a certain sister of J. Carlos, then "la hermana", with definite article, refers to the definite one we've mentioned before. Without a previous reference, we'd assume that she is THE sister, i.e. the only one. Without "la", she is just her sister, but since we are not being specific and definite enough to use the definite article, for all we know, J. Carlos could have other sisters, and she is just one of them (or she could be the only one, of course).

Juan Carlos does not have an article because articles are generally omitted for personal names. See below.

El libro es de la tía Julia.

Without the article, it would sound almost like there is someone called "Tía Julia". Actually, if there was a person with such a name and surname, how could we know whether we are referring to her full name or to some untie called Julia? In these cases, the omission of the article generally implies that we refer to a personal name, or someone with a well-known nickname. Use articles in general for non personal names, e.g. family relationships, social classifications (e.g. del presidente),...

Aqui esta el perro del abuelo.

Again, unless we talk about Mr. Abuelo (a rather uncommon name, hehe), we must use an article.

El perro de Carlos (belongs to someone called Carlos)
El perro de abuelo (belongs to someone called Abuelo)
El perro del abuelo (belongs to some grandpa)

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
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HI la cosa, that is an easy answer: you can never place an article, unless in vulgar language, before a proper name.

So, la tía Juana, the article belongs to tía, not Juana. I am doing this with my students now and they have great difficulty to see that you cannot use the article here in English

The Juana's aunt.<---|-la tía de Juana

This is an example of an inocorrect phrase. (must be "Juana's aunt") A very common mistake for Spanish natives.

I added "in vulgar language" as you can hear people say:

La Juana no ha venido hoy.

El Pepe siempre está de broma.

La JUana y el Pepe son pareja. tongue laugh

I'm not sure that you completely answered her question. You explained why you DO NOT use the definite article immediately before proper names. it is not ..de**l **Juan Carlos.

I don't see an explanation, however, why the definite article is used before tía or abuelo. (you explained the DON'T, but not the DO)

tía, aquí, está (misspellings)

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by 0074b507
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HI la cosa, that is an easy answer: you can never place an article, unless in vulgar language, before a proper name.

So, la tía Juana, the article belongs to tía, not Juana. I am doing this with my students now and they have great difficulty to see that you cannot use the article here in English

The Juana's aunt.<---|-la tía de Juana

This is an example of an inocorrect phrase. (must be "Juana's aunt") A very common mistake for Spanish natives.

I added "in vulgar language" as you can hear people say:

La Juana no ha venido hoy.

El Pepe siempre está de broma.

La JUana y el Pepe son pareja. tongue laugh

updated ABR 23, 2009
posted by 00494d19