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Chen Guangcheng is a special student at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law. This essay was translated from the Chinese.

Why don't they write: "This essay was translated from Chinese"? (Omitting the "the" before "Chinese".)

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This could be as Barrie England states -and it certainly seems to be a logical explanation. However, I wonder if the use of the is an over-generalisation from the use of the definite article with adjectives of nationality (see Swan 1980 Practical English Usage p14:para 14.3 & p397:para 397). –  Qube May 30 '12 at 7:37
    
No, it's not an overgeneralization. That's like saying the red of a woman's dress is an overgeneralization of the red on the Chinese flag. It's impossible to overgeneralize any specific use of the -- because there are so many of them, and because they are so completely different and so totally arbitrary. The University of X, X State University (no the); The Hague, Die Schweiz, The Mississippi River, ... Articles are just convenient markers; they have no meaning to generalize, let alone overgeneralize. –  John Lawler May 30 '12 at 13:28
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@John Lawler. It's not like saying that at all. The 'rule' in Swan is particular to the and adjectives of nationality. I think it entirely reasonable that the use of 'the Chinese' is following this pattern. Ergo the 'rule' is being applied unnecessarily -overgeneralisation. –  Qube May 31 '12 at 7:56
    
@Qube. Ah, I see. I interpreted rule in a general sense, but you were merely identifying a particular rule in a particular book as being the source of the problem. My apologies for my stupidities. –  John Lawler May 31 '12 at 15:45

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The name of a language is sometimes preceded by the in this way, particularly in academic texts. It seems to be an ellipsed form of the Chinese orginal.

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I don't think I really understand your first sentence (or perhaps I just disagree, I'm not sure). The second sentence seems spot-on though. I read the word "the" in OP's context as emphasising a specific original Chinese text. Which would be less appropriate if, say, the English rendition were actually a "composite" created by stitching together selected translated sections from multiple originals covering broadly the same topic. –  FumbleFingers May 30 '12 at 14:06

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