01 September 2015

Country qualifiers and the like

My colleagues at WLF Think Tank– producers of 101 things a translator needs to know – have been thinking about 'country qualifiers' and the like.

So far, we have simply compiled questions, comments and observations.

Some examples

Headlines from today's Financial Times (my bold):
Google under fire for India market abuse
India faith census spurs debate
US to hit Chinese hackers with sanctions
An example from The Guardian on 15 July 2014:
Germany team return to heroes' welcome before Brandenburg Gate
(compare the headline with the first words in the second paragraph).
In the case of sports teams, "England" and "Germany" players go by that name precisely because they play for England or Germany. The country is not so much a qualifier, as a descriptor that tells us that they play for the England or Germany team. In other words England or Germany stands for "the England team" and "the German team", respectively.
  • Victoria, Australia, has its "Victoria Police".
  • The European Patent Office uses expressions like "the United Kingdom delegate / contingent / view".
  • Americans say "California wines", not "Californian wines". Indeed, Americans, apparently, seldom use the adjective Californian ("California weather", "California beaches", etc.).
  • Adjective forms of country qualifiers are the only ones used when naming currencies, embassies, presidents, etc..
  • India vs. Indian are especially useful in North America and India.
  • Some country names have no adjectival form in English, so leave no option (e.g. US, UK and their long forms; also Luxembourg).

Questions, comments and observations


  • Is the term 'country qualifier' the best way to identify the issue? Given that it doesn't produce any hits with Google, it may not.
  • Have others observed a recent increase in the use of 'country qualifiers' in noun form rather than the traditional adjective forms?
  • The distinctions the different forms make clear are fairly obvious but have any academics or others written about the phenomenon?

  • Noun forms clearly appeal to headline editors.
  • Euphony is often, it would appear, an unconscious driver.
  • Political correctness is sometimes a factor. Consider India(n).
  • Some country names and adjectives pose special problems. Example: Argentina, Argentine, Argentinian.

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