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lexico
17-03-05, 09:56
The favorite ones I always hear is the usage of "MY" in almost everything....Now this is interesting. I believe it was a German/French who said this (with some sarcasm for sure);

"Americans (US Americans) are so capitalistic/materialistic that they love to use the personal possessive (genetive) pronoun 'my' before everything they can. So instead of the generic 'the head' which would be the more common occurrence in other European languages, they would say 'my head.' There are so many other examples which any speaker of a European language couldn't fail to notice."

It felt odd when I heard that; the facts seemed to be genuine, but I couldn't quite agree that langauge could be explanined my either capitalism, marxism, or whatever -ism. But since 'my' became an issue here, it may help to see how frequent 'my' is used in countries where English is an official/native langauge. It may very well turn out that English is rather unique in its profuse use of 'my.' :blush:

Foreigners learning the language may be just hyper-reflecting what they have observed in English.

Maciamo
17-03-05, 10:35
"Americans (US Americans) are so capitalistic/materialistic that they love to use the personal possessive (genetive) pronoun 'my' before everything they can. So instead of the generic 'the head' which would be the more common occurrence in other European languages, they would say 'my head.' There are so many other examples which any speaker of a European language couldn't fail to notice."

No, no, this is completely unrelated. It is grammatically correct to say, for example, either "She touched me on the arm" or "She touched my arm". It's just a matter of (cultural) preference and nuance. I know that Italian people don't use much "my" and prefer "the", but this is because there isn't such a word as "my" in Italian; you have to say "il mio..." or "la mia...", which translates as "the mine...". So many Italians shorten it by only "the". If that's not what the guy you met meant, I don't see what it is, and I am a native speaker of French, who also speak Italian and German. But there is almost no difference of usage between English, French and German regarding "my".

lexico
17-03-05, 12:00
No, no, this is completely unrelated.I know the guy was only meaning to excercise some European humour. But if we dig deep, there are little things that do turn into reality. Name taboos have changed/replaced phonemes, syllables, and whole morphemes; but, yes, that's a different area.
It is grammatically correct to say, for example, either "She touched me on the arm" or "She touched my arm". It's just a matter of (cultural) preference and nuance. I know that Italian people don't use much "my" and prefer "the", but this is because there isn't such a word as "my" in Italian; you have to say "il mio..." or "la mia...", which translates as "the mine...". So many Italians shorten it by only "the". If that's not what the guy you met meant, I don't see what it is, and I am a native speaker of French, who also speak Italian and German. But there is almost no difference of usage between English, French and German regarding "my".What you say about syntactic grammar is true, but I was rather thinking of preference in usage. As for German or Italian, I wouldn't know how to make a comparison, but here's some unprocessed stats from google limiting to the French equivalent of the English word 'head.' We might be able to see the English skewdness towards 'my' in comparison to 'the.'
-----------------------------------
"my head": 7,740,000 matches
"the head": 18,000,000 matches
my/the = 0.43

"ma tete": 52,600 matches
"la tete": 432,000 matches
ma/la = 0.12
----------------------------------
"in my head": 2,100,000 matches
"in the head": 1,870,000 matches
(in my)/(in the) = 1.13

"dans ma tete": 24,500 matches
"dans la tete": 52,400 matches
(dans ma)/(dans la) = 0.47

As you can see, the relative frequencies of "my/the" in English is consistently higher by a factor of 2.2-3.6 when compared to those found in the French equivalents "ma/la". ;-)

Maciamo
17-03-05, 15:49
As you can see, the relative frequencies of "my/the" in English is consistently higher by a factor of 2.2-3.6 when compared to those found in the French equivalents "ma/la". ;-)

Don't forget that "the head" is a much more common expression than "my head" and can be used in expression where it is not refer to the physical head (eg. "the head of marketing", "the head teacher", etc.), where "my" cannot be used. The word "tete" in French is almost never used in another sense than the physical one. Then try searching "tête" instead of "tete", as Google is case sensitive.

"ma tête" => 415,000 results
"la tête" => 2,380,000 results

The proportion is now much closer.

lexico
17-03-05, 20:59
Don't forget that "the head" is a much more common expression than "my head" and can be used in expression where it is not refer to the physical head (eg. "the head of marketing", "the head teacher", etc.), where "my" cannot be used. The word "tete" in French is almost never used in another sense than the physical one. Part I: Stats

Good point which I accept. Let me expound on it in detail in Part 2. I redid my google search; English figures by restricting to English language only; French "e circonflex" in French only, which gave me the following. (I got greater figures than yours, which is probably due to the web material growing.)
-----------------------------------
"my head": 7,353,000 matches
"the head": 17,700,000 matches(1)
my/the = 0.42

"ma tête": 434,000 matches
"la tête": 2,420,000 matches(2)
ma/la = 0.18
----------------------------------
"in my head": 2,030,000 matches
"in the head": 1,820,000 matches
(in my)/(in the) = 1.12

"dans ma tête": 224,000 matches
"dans la tête": 477,000 matches
(dans ma)/(dans la) = 0.47
----------------------------------
"on my head": 443,000 matches
"on the head":1,500,000 matches
(on my)/(on the) = 0.30

"sur ma tête": 2,700 matches
"sur la tête": 422,000 matches
(sur ma)/(sur la) = 0.005

Again, the relative frequencies of "my/the" in English is consistently higher than those in French by a factor of 2.3-60. I have not taken into consideration the higher ratio for 'my head/the head,' which I will demonstrate below.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part II: Interpretation

Given that I am not allowed to use spectific wild card words (such as arbitrary verbs, or synonyms of "head, ") in my search, this is how I interpret the serach result for "the head" and "la la tête." Let's say the extended uses of the word "head" were of a number x included in the underlined figure (1). The proportion 0.42 I am using was calcualated 7,353,000/17,700,000.

Now if I take away those extended uses of "head," how many true heads are left ? 17,700,700 less x. I have no easy way of getting the number x; let's suppose x is 7,700,000 for the time being. Then the adjusted proportion would be 7,353,000/10,000,000 = 0.74 for English.

If French does not have the extended use of "tête" within figure (2) that would mean the corresponding proportion for French would remain at 0.18 obtained by 434,000/2,420,000. The ratio between English and French would be 0.74:0.18 = 4.1:1 This means, English favors 'my' 4.1 times as much as French favors 'ma.'

Conclusion

Depending on the extended usage count x, the actual ratio figures will vary. But one thing for sure is that it will be greater than 2.3. This supports my thesis that English has unusually high occurrences of 'my' when compared to French 'ma.'

PopCulturePooka
18-03-05, 00:19
I think you missed the point of what Mac was saying.

lexico
18-03-05, 00:24
What is the point that i'm missing ?

EDIT: Thanks. I understand what I missed !

Maciamo
18-03-05, 07:07
This supports my thesis that English has unusually high occurrences of 'my' when compared to French 'ma.'

Anyway, regardless of Google results, you should believe when I say there is no substantial difference of usage between my/the in French and English, as I am a native speaker of French.