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Generic statements

Posted by R. Berg on June 09, 2001

In Reply to: Thanks, R Berb. posted by K Yone on June 08, 2001

: Hi, again!

: >In a sense, both #1 and #2 are generic >statements: they lump all Chinese together; they >are generalizations. #1 says that all Chinese >individuals work hard; #2 says that the Chinese >as a nation work hard (but not that "China works >hard"). These two meanings are not very different

: 1. The Chinese are hard working people.
: 2. The Chinese are a hard working people.

: I see. Both of them are generic statement. Could #1 be specific statement too depending on its context? For example, there are some Chinese students at a college and they're all hard-workers. Can I say 'The Chinese are hard-working people'?

: Thanks again. I'm very much grateful for your help.

: K. Yone

Suppose a conversation is already going on about a particular college with some Chinese students and so forth, so that your listener shares enough background information with you. In that case "The Chinese are hard-working people" might be understood, but it doesn't sound quite natural. American speakers would say "Those (or "The") Chinese students are hard workers" or "The students from China work hard" or "Lucy Wong and James Yee are hard-working people."

If you say "The Chinese are hard-working people" when you mean only a specific group of students, it sounds as if you were talking about all Chinese people everywhere. To know that you mean just the students, a listener needs a lot of information from the context.