Saturday, November 19, 2011

Different of the people

A number of years ago, when I was still struggling to understand, even at a fairly basic level, what a determinative was, I suspected that different might be one. Not always of course.  Clearly different is usually an adjective. But I had a feeling that it also had a secret life as a determinative. Try as I might, though, I couldn't find any evidence that it was. Until now.

At dinner tonight, my mother was telling an anecdote, and she said "different of the people commented that Marg could be unpleasant." I'm not surprised about Marg--most of us can be unpleasant at times--but I was elated to hear different used that way, and from my own mother nonetheless.

You see, adjectives just can't do that. You can't say happy of the people or good of the shirts. You can't even say brown of the crayons or interesting of the movies. But you can say different of the people. Or, at least, my mom can.


Q Higuchi said...

It is marginal, but I could kind of see how your mom could do that - after all, moms rule the world, don't they.

All of the people, most of the people, some of the people - these quantify and specify the domain of the people you are talking about.

My wild guess is, ADJ -> DET happens when (you think) you are quantifying and specifying in a similar fashion. Marg might generally have been regarded as nice, but there were some of us who had a different opinion. Some of the people were different. Different of the people thought otherwise. - Yes, it is a bit of a stretch, but hey, things happen.

I do not know whether anyone might likewise be led to utter 'similar of the people', 'extreme of the people', 'black of the people' etc. in a given context - maybe not. But then, things do not happen only until they do.

John L said...

I think different of the people is parallel (if not equivalent) to various of the people, and in both of them there seems to be an unexpressed individuator, like different/various ones.

Except pragmatically a far better human individuator than ones would be persons, or, better, people, but clearly neither one of these can be used to individuate a group named "people".

And ones still doesn't feel right here. So the individuator has to be unexpressed, like the relative pronoun in a relative infinitive clause.

BTW, "adjective" isn't quite such a universal category as you might think. There are languages where they can't be told from nouns, and others where they can't be told from verbs; and "adjective" wasn't included among the traditional eight Partes Orationis, anyway.

Brett said...

Thanks, John. I've actually recorded various as a determinative here. And I agree they are similar.

I don't think there's anything unexpressed, any more so than if you you had many of the people.

As for adjectives, certainly languages differ in their categories, but this is English, Jack, not Languages, Jack

Tyson Seburn said...

I have never heard different used this way before. It sounds so wrong to me. When I tried out 'good', I thought of 'for the good of the people', which is fine, but then it's used as a noun. So, can you give another, dare I suggest, more recognisable example?

Brett said...

Hi, Tyson! I'm not surprised you don't like it, and I expect it will seems strange to many people. I can't give you any better examples because this is the first one I've found in about four years of searching.

Tyson Seburn said...

Hmmm. Perhaps if it's the only example, said by just one person, then it's ... wrong... (dun dun dun - cue surprising music). ;)

Brett said...

I'd certainly agree it's non-standard, but I asked my mom about it and she said that, although she hadn't been aware of it and wouldn't use it in writing, it was a genuine feature of her speech and not just a speech error. Also, as I said, there's my own sense that it might be out there, which, of course, could have been influenced by my mother's usage. I would be surprised though if nobody else uses it.

Tyson Seburn said...

I would be cool to find other people who say it and determine if there might be, say, a regional influence or something.