Recently I have been noticing a lot of articles written by native English speakers which are writing in the style of "Russia boat crashed into [...]", "urging her to protect the safety of a China academic" or "Spain toddler stuck in deep borehole near Málaga".

I am not particularly well studied when it comes to English grammar, but I am a native English speaker and this feels very wrong to me.

Is this valid in English? To me, these should say "the Russian boat", "the Chinese academic" or "Spanish toddler".

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    Welcome to EL&U. If you read the article, you can see that Anne-Marie Brady is in fact not a Chinese academic, but an academic whose specialty is China. Could you link to a source for "Russia boat"? Either it is a similar construction, or was a typo. – choster Nov 26 '18 at 18:55
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    Were the things you saw headlines for newspaper articles, etc? These tend to be treated a bit differently. – Hot Licks Dec 26 '18 at 19:09
  • It was indeed in headlines, like this bbc.com/news/world-europe-46862385 – William Dunne Jan 14 '19 at 19:55

The question does not provide full context, but just from a first glance, these examples seem to be news article headlines, and therefore written in a form of pseudo-English known as Headlinese. Wikipedia tells us some of the relevant features that differ from standard English (among others):

  • Forms of the verb "to be" and articles (a, an, the) are usually omitted.
  • Most verbs are in the simple present tense, e.g. "Governor signs bill", while the future is expressed by an infinitive, with to followed by a verb, as in "Governor to sign bill".
  • In the United States, conjunctions are often replaced by a comma, as in "Bush, Blair laugh off microphone mishap".
  • Organizations and institutions are often indicated by metonymy: "Wall Street" for "the financial industry", "Whitehall" for the UK government administration, "Madrid" for "the government of Spain", "Davos" for "World Economic Forum", and so on.
  • Lack of a terminating full stop (period) even if the headline forms a complete sentence.

So a boat originating from Russia is a "Russia boat" and an academic whose specialty is China is a "China academic," but only for purposes of the headline. Here, some version of metonymy seems to be in use. In the text of the news article, these terms would likely be expanded to a more explicit and grammatical format.

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You don't give context for your first example, but in your second example, she is not an academic who is Chinese, she is an academic who studies China. "China" is being used as a noun adjunct.

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    No doubt, but the usage is still odd, and I doubt that it would be found other than in journalese. – JeremyC Nov 26 '18 at 22:50
  • @JeremyC This particular example is odd, but using proper nouns as noun adjuncts is not, in general, very odd. – Acccumulation Nov 26 '18 at 23:31
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    @Accumulation I was indeed referring to this particular case. 'A China academic' when spoken sounds as if she were a ceramic figure - a variation on a Dresden shepherdess perhaps. – JeremyC Nov 27 '18 at 11:39

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