They Have a Structure For It

See the post below my comment..
In another thread on the list, we see the use of ser for location rather than the normal estar, something that could be explained if it was encountered in reading a newspaper, for exampe. That one would not require a different translation into English whereas the adjective placement usually does (at least in Spanish). But a totally different translation sometimes is required and I think a couple of those can be presented just to show students how languages don’t always match each other exactly, e.g. in Haitian Creole you have a noun used with a definite article or with a possessive adjective, but it can also be used with both, which gives a nuanced meaning e.g. ki kote mwen manje = where is my food as opposed to the others’ food, vs ki kote manjea = where is the food vs ki kote mwen manjea = where is the food I had (returning from stepping away from the table and coming back to find your plate gone).
I’ll try to give other examples of this grammatical version of “They Have a Word For It”, i.e. structures and/or vocabulary peculiar to a language.
Subject: Re: [FLTEACH] un grand homme ou un homme grand
Yes. Though “grand” isn’t the best example of this.
We teach beginners that most adj. come after the noun (important), a few come before (beau), and a few have different meanings depending on whether they come before or after (ancien). But there are a lot of adjectives that can be used either before or after to change the nuance of the meaning. I start to talk about this in my upper level UG classes, but I examine it in depth in my graduate grammar class.
Un lac profond / une profonde tristesse. (figurative – this is really a lot like ancien, though a bit harder for students to grasp, perhaps because the meanings are not as different as old vs. former.)
But here is one I noticed today while following the news from Paris and thought it would be a good example for my upper level students. This takes it up a notch from profond.
un dangereux terroriste
“Un terroriste dangereux” is a terrorist who happens to be dangerous, perhaps because he has training, weapons, skills, etc. Someone is “un dangereux terrorist” because it is in the nature of a terrorist to be dangerous.
“Un gâteau délicieux” is a cake that happens to have the quality of being delicious. … I’ve had your cakes, and they were ok, but this one is really delicious! … But you might go to the bakery to get “un délicieux gâteau au chocolat” because … how could it be anything but delicious? It’s in the nature of that bakery’s chocolate cakes to be delicious.
In our lower level classes, and even in our upper levels most of the time, we teach rules of thumb that help the students function in the language at or a little above their level. These rules are only an approximation of the language. Teaching students lower level French classes all of the nuances would only serve to terrify them. We all function at our level on the proficiency scale. I often have grad students who are surprised when I explain a mistake they have been making… “But that’s what I learned in my French 101 book!” I tell them that was fine when they were in French 101, but as they progress, they gain new skills and learn to use new linguistic tools to express their meaning in ways that are beyond those lower levels. You can find hundreds of things like this all across the range of grammar topics.

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