11

Am I right that English Lan­guage & Usage is the short form ei­ther for English Lan­guage & Its Usage or else for English Lan­guage & The Usage of It, rather than for English Lan­guage & English Usage?

Why do I ask? Well, if the lat­ter op­tion were true, we would have English lan­guage, where English is an ad­jec­tive speci­fiy­ing which lan­guage. And we would have English us­age, where it is a noun and a noun ad­junct to­gether spec­i­fy­ing what lan­guage.

Now, the short form would omit one in­stance English, al­though its func­tion is dif­fer­ent from that of the in­stance re­tained. That would be dishar­mo­nious, would it not? It would be like say­ing English lan­guage & the us­age of, where the “used ob­ject” is miss­ing be­cause that instance of English is not the “used ob­ject” but a lan­guage at­tribute.

Or, would such a con­stel­la­tion be fine for na­tive speak­ers?

Many thanks to all contributors for your valuable input so far, both in answers and comments. Your divided opinions on the applied grammar show me that English Language & Usage is far from being unambiguous, at least grammatically. So far so good.

The question now is, why this ambiguity has been accepted so far. I take John Lawler's statement ([Conjunction Reduction] is "mindlessly automatic") as "Conjunction Reduction, being a solely syntactic rule, does not obligate to check semantic and/or pragmatic harmony." Well, no obligation doesn't mean prohibition. So, what's the reason for native speakers not to feel the need to check it/them anyway.

If I read Hammer & Usage, I don't necessarily understand Hammer & Its Usage. I ask myself "Hammer? Fine. But the usage of what, actually?". But you seem to have no problem with English Language & Usage. I try then to get an answer to the usage-of-what question by enhancing the statement according to grammatical possibilities such as the reversal of a conjunction reduction (result: English Language & English Usage). But I'm not satisfied because I know that I can't use the same English before Usage. After all, I need a noun for Usage, not an adjective, as I can't imagine, to what an English(ical) Usage could refer (English(ical) usage of socks, perhaps?). If I point to this fact, Edwin Ashworth recognizes that English before Usage is a noun but seems still to have no problem with the discrepancy.

By the way, I dare to suppose that most contributors, who have provided elaborated long forms, haven't made a step back and looked at the title in question as if it's completely new and unknown to them. There's nothing to it - providing a correct long form having a deep insight into the community. I'm asking instead if the title is telling by itself (if it states all, what you have stated in your elaborated long forms) and dare to question it. This is my point.

Just imagine we encounter a community with the name Sacral Language & Usage. I would take it as Sacral Language & Sacral Usage (of sacral things). Would you take it as Sacral Language & Sacral Language Usage resp. Sacral Language & Usage of Sacral Language?

If you rather or clearly followed my interpretation I might have an explanation. If not, I'm in need of further help by you. The solution I see is that English is perceived accustically as neutral i.e. the perception doesn't allow to say if it's an adjective or a noun. (Although... If I'm not misguided, there actually is a difference with the word accentuation: English Language but English Usage.) Native speakers are so much used to it that the distinction plays no role even if it actually exists. You have a flying change from an adjective to a noun but you don't notice it. (Don't be alarmed. It just is as it is.) But as soon as you hear a clear adjective before Language the feeling arises that the same word before Usage can only be an adjective. Am I right? Please comment on it.

If so, I'd like to correct slightly the answer nearest to this solution by saying "it's not that the rule is mindlessly automatic - its application is like that" and mark it as accepted. It wouldn't rate other input as less valuable. It's been a good piece of teamwork.

Sorry. I couldn't help writing all this in order to transport my way of thinking to you. Feel free to reduce it to make it more suitable for a question.

And finally, there is another thing to ponder on. English Language is a general term. If there was such a community we would certainly expect that it deals with all the aspects of the English language i.e. incl. its usage. Therefore, it wouldn't be necessary to add Usage to the name (result: English Language & Usage) in order to include its usage. So, what does English Language & Usage possibly mean? It seems to mean the focus "on how it is normally used rather than arcane / obsolete grammar and vocabulary, and D-I-Y contrivances". But in that case the use of "&" is questionable. Why not English Language: Usage or English Language - Usage? But this is a step away from being a meta question.


Examples by num­ber:

  1. English Lan­guage & Usage
  2. English Lan­guage & Its Usage
  3. English Lan­guage & The Usage of It
  4. English Lan­guage & English Usage
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Feb 8 at 2:00
  • 6
    Does this belong on meta? :-) – Rand al'Thor Feb 8 at 7:12
  • 1
    2 and 3 are semantically identical. – TonyK Feb 8 at 18:56
  • @Randal'Thor , this would be the one question that is truly meta :) – Damila Feb 9 at 6:11
  • 1
    I know, hence the smiley. – Rand al'Thor Feb 9 at 17:08
21

The phrase English language and usage is an example of the syntactic phenomenon called Conjunction Reduction, which omits repeated lexical material in conjoined clauses.
Thus,

  • English language and usage

is a reduction, by rule, of

  • English language and English usage

This is an ordinary kind of conjunction reduction; English need not be repeated.

Note, however, that this is a syntactic rule, not a semantic or pragmatic one -- that is, it's mindlessly automatic and does not refer to meaning, custom, or context. Let alone disharmony. Syntax, like AI, is all algorithms.

That means that the two NPs English language and English usage have the same syntactic structure and therefore are treated the same by syntactic rules like conjunction reduction, even though the semantic relations between English and the next word are different in each phrase.

It's not necessary to invent imaginary phrases for the reduced phrase to represent; that's just normal behavior for syntax. If you want to give it a Greek name, fine by me.

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  • English usage (OP's (4)) is incomplete: the usage of what? We could speak of, for example, English usage of Latin phrases or English usage of the terminology of the metric system. Of course, we know what was really intended by the phrase, but that's because we know which site we are at; the phrase itself does not tell us that. OP's (2) and (3), on the other hand make it perfectly clear that it is the usage of English language in general that is intended. – jsw29 Feb 9 at 22:05
  • English usage can certainly be part of a larger constituent, but by itself it simply means ordinary English. I don't talk about usage, normally, except here, because it's not a well-defined term. It can mean the way anybody speaks English, whether they're native or not, and wherever they live. That covers a lot of usages. – John Lawler Feb 10 at 2:46
  • Would it be fair to say that your answer to the OP is that (1), (2), (3), and (4) are all equivalent and that it is a matter of taste which of the four one prefers? Some people may find (2) and (3) clearer than (1) and (4), because they perceive the usage or English language as clearer than English usage. This matter is independent of the uncontroversial conjunction reduction, which separates (1), (2), and (3), on one side, from (4) on the other. – jsw29 Feb 10 at 15:58
16

The most correct long form of the title of this stack is even longer than your disharmonious suggestion:

English Language & English Language Usage

This stack is for the discussion of the English language as well as discussion of the usage of the English language.

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  • This is what I take it to mean when I read the site title. As a native speaker, the phrase “English usage” doesn’t really sound right. – mclayton Feb 7 at 21:47
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    This seems pretty similar to OP's first suggestion of "English Language & Its Usage," just replacing the pronoun with its antecedent. Though as a native speaker I definitely agree with @mclayton that it sounds more natural than "English usage." – John Montgomery Feb 8 at 1:49
-2

You are completely incorrectly thinking that

“English Language & Usage”

is a sentence.

It is not a sentence and has utterly no connection in any way to sentences.

The question is malformed.

Similarly, if one asked "My name is 'John', what is the correct 'long-form'" ..... the question would be completely without meaning.

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  • 2
    Where did the OP say (or imply) that it is a sentence? – jsw29 Feb 9 at 22:07

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