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rezaf

two English questions

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rezaf

1-When talking about people of a country is it the Chinese,Chinese or Chinese people?

2-Is there an adjective or noun for people who have parents of different ethnicities?

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renzhe

1) "Chinese" is an adjective, "the Chinese" and "the Chinese people" are nouns.

He is Chinese.

The Chinese are coming.

We are doing it for the Chinese people.

2) I don't know if there is a non-offensive term, but you can say someone is of a mixed heritage, for example, or a mixed background, or something like that.

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maximinus

1: Could be two of them, some examples:

The Chinese are known for eating lots of rice.

Chinese people often eat with chopsticks.

When we say 'Chinese' we refer to an aspect of something:

My friend is Chinese

This toy is Chinese.

2: There are a few insulting ones that I won't mention. Probably 'mixed race' is the safest option.

Thats for England BTW, can't really speak for the rest of the English speaking world.

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rezaf

Thanks.

1- So when referring to the people of a certain country is there no difference between " the Iranians" and "Iranians"?

2- What if we are talking about the governments? For instance at a UN meeting should we say "The Iranians want an atomic bomb" or should we say "Iranians want an atomic bomb"?

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adrianlondon

In that instance "The Iranian government wants an atomic bomb" would be the most accurate ;)

"The Iranians" sounds better to me, as it forms an image of the country as a whole, probably a government. "Iranians" sounds wrong (again, to me) as it gives the feeling of including all Iranians including those many who live abroad.

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rezaf

thanks I think that pluralising and using an article is one thing that I can never learn.

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renzhe

"Iranians" is the plural form of the adjective/noun "Iranian", and it makes it clear that you're talking about people.

The adjective/noun "Chinese" has no plural, so there is ambiguity.

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Luoman

Up to the middle of the 20th century, Chinese people were often called "Chinamen", "Chinawomen" in many novels. In modern English and American literature these words are already not being used. Are they considered offensive now?

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renzhe

Yes, they are considered offensive.

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Luoman

Is "China girl" offensive? There is a song by David Bowie where he sings: "My little China girl". If "China girl" is not offensive, why "Chinawoman" is offensive then? Or is there a big difference between "Chinawoman" and "China woman"?

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renzhe

If you called a girl on the street "China girl", it would be offensive.

The Iggy Pop song uses it as some kind of endearment, and it was written in a different time anyway.

It's not the worst of insults, but it is offensive.

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Altair

In English, many adjectives can be used as nouns if they follow "the," e.g., the rich and the poor. All though this usage is still productive in English, it is only usual for a limited number of adjectives. The other usages sound very poetic and unsuitable to normal conversation or writing.

This usage of adjectives also seems to suggest some sort of contrast, e.g., the rich versus the poor or the elderly versus the young. I think this is the same grammatical usage as when "the" is used to apply to one defined portion of an indefinite whole, such as "the back of an envelope." The contrast applies collectively to a class, rather than to each of the individuals in the class. Therefore, if you say something like "The rich eat a lot of meat," this sounds less categoric than "Rich people eat a lot of meat." The latter sentence sounds like your saying just about every rich person you have met or heard of eats a lot of meat, whereas the former sentence sounds more like "Rich people, as a class, eat a lot of meat.

Ethnic adjectives can be used with "the" with the same meanings and nuances, expecially those that are rarely otherwise used as nouns (namely those ending in "sh" "ch" or "s", e.g., the English, the Irish, the French, the Dutch, the Scots, the Welsh, the Danish, etc.) Here the idea of contrast is between you and all foreigners, or perhaps in the categorization of all foreign peoples on Earth. It is rather awkward to use "the" with a group that would refer to yourself, since it would sound as if you are talking about your group as an outsider.

If you want to use these adjectives as nouns, you traditionally had to add "man," e.g., Englishman, Irishman, Frenchman, Dutchman, etc. "Chinaman" was a new coinage that is no longer used. Hearing it nowadays brings to mind semi-educated people living in a time and place where prejudice against Chinese was common and overt. Since "China" is a noun, it is not identical in construction with "Englishman," "Welshman," etc. and so sounds a little bit strange or forced. I have never heard or read "Chinawoman," but would imagine that it existed. "China girl" sounds like an imitation of "California girl" (which is neutral or even a little bit positive) and so sounds okay, but a little bit risky. It also would mean more "a girl from China," of whatever ethnicity rather than necessarily a "Chinese girl," born and raised in whatever country or place.

Ethnic adjectives ending in -ese are relatively new to the language and usage still varies somewhat. Generally they are best treated like the adjectives above, but occasionally they are used as nouns in language that can sound a little bit loose or awkward: e.g., "She is a famous Chinese that speaks Irish" or "I know a Viennese that speaks perfect Persian." To my ear, these phrases are slightly awkward, and I would re-word them to "She is a famous Chinese professor that speaks Irish" and "I know a Viennese person that speaks perfect Persian. In other sentences, it sounds okay because there is really no other smooth alternative. This is especially true in plural usage.

Other ethnic terms can be freely used as nouns, such as all those that end in "an" or "ian." Perhaps to avoid ambiguity or perhaps because of phrases like "the English" or "the Irish," you can also say things like "the Romans," "the Greeks," and "the Persians." These differ from "Romans," "Greeks," and "Persians," by referring to a cultural collective or class of people. The use of "the" is preferred if you are talking about and categorizing foreign cultures, as opposed to expressing the shared characteristics of individuals with freedom of choice. The usage without "the" would be preferable if you are talking about individuals outside the context of there country and culture. E.g., "Singaporeans living in New York may have a hard time finding some kinds of tropical fruits."

The stronger the sense that you are talking about a culture, the more you will be likely to use "the." The stronger the sense that you are considering individuals, the more you are likely not to use "the."

Again, you would tend not to use this last group of adjectives with "the" when referring to a group you yourself belong to.

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rezaf

Thanks. You know what? This place is a much better place for learning English than learning Chinese. I like it here. :D

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lemur

Is it possible that Chinaman would have originated as a word-for-word translation of 中国人? It would thus have likely be coined by Chinese natives who had emigrated to English-speaking countries? (For instance, "long time no see" would be an English translation of 好久不见. Not quite word-for-word but almost.)

It seems to me if the term had been coined by native speakers of English, then it would be Chineseman in the same way that we say Frenchman and not Franceman, Englishman and not Englandman, German and not Germanyman. (Ok, that last one was a joke.)

Maybe someone with more knowledge of Chinese and of the history of Chinese emigration can shoot down or support my hypothesis.

Wikipedia has some interesting information but nothing specific about this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinaman

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