gentile = ethnonymic (was: Heard on The Judges: crack)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Apr 12 19:20:28 UTC 2008

On Apr 12, 2008, at 11:04 AM, Mark Mandel wrote:

> On Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 9:56 AM, I wrote:
>> OED says [-ish 1]:
>>  1. In OE. and the cognate langs., chiefly forming gentile adjs. from
>> national names: e.g. British, English, Scottish
> I understood this use of "gentile", but I don't think I've ever seen
> it before. "Is it current?" I asked OED, and OED replied:
>   b. Gram. Of a word: Indicating the country, locality, or nation to
> which anything belongs.

the terminology in this area seems remarkably confused.  "demonym",
"gentilic", and "ethnonym" all have some uses in the technical
literature, but not always consistently.  we need labels for (at
least) proper nouns that refer to places (or regions or nations),
people from those places, ethnic groups, and people belonging to those
groups, and for the corresponding adjectives.  now, in the real world,
these categorizations are related to one another in complex ways.  and
the words for particular categories also overlap, especially in their
morphology, and these overlap with language names and names of
religious groups and so on.  it's hard to imagine a terminology that
would allow us to keep things straight.

for instance, what kind of proper noun is "Turkish" in "Turkish
invasion" 'invasion by Turkey' -- and "Turkish" in "Turkish invasion"
'invasion by Turks'?


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