Hello there,
I've been tripped up in class by teaching some of the "rules" of article usage. My first mistake was saying that one should use "the" when the noun is followed by a non-partitive of-phrase, eg:
"the behaviour of monkeys"
"the growth of the plants"
vs
"a bottle of beer" (partitive)
"a number of questions"
However, this does not hold true. So why do we say:

"the behaviour of monkeys"
but
"a knowledge of physics (is necessary)"
"an understanding of the factors which..."
and
"Computer-support can provide ease of diagram generation"

Is it to do with qualities of the noun?
My second mistake was saying that we use "the" with second mention. However, it's context-dependent of course. In the passage below, 2nd & 3rd mentions use "a". Presumably this is to do with specificity - ie, the questionnaire is not specified at any point.
"In Case Study 1, which acted as a pilot study, three types of questionnaire were tried: a self-completion questionnaire, an interview-based questionnaire and a questionnaire plus a group discussion. An interview-based questionnaire was considered most appropriate for rich qualitative feedback along with obtaining an unbiased rating of each diagram. Consequently, Case Study 2 and 3 adopted only an interview-based questionnaire."
Does it all come down to some hard-to-pin-down notion of definiteness, or are there some useful guidelines I can give to my students?

Thanks,
Helen
1 2
Hello there, I've been tripped up in class by teaching some of the "rules" of article usage. My first mistake ... the factors which..." and "Computer-support can provide ease of diagram generation" Is it to do with qualities of the noun?

No, you were right the first time. "A knowledge of" is partitive. Presumably you don't intend to imply that it is the totality of all that is known about any given subject. Likewise "an understanding of" does not require total infallible comprehension but familiarity with the fundamental points. Equally it would be possible to say "Intensive grooming is a behaviour of monkeys" where you do not intend to talk about the sum of monkey behaviours but only a particular example.
My second mistake was saying that we use "the" with second mention. However, it's context-dependent of course. In the passage ... come down to some hard-to-pin-down notion of definiteness, or are there some useful guidelines I can give to my students?

I don't think it's hard to pin down in this case. There is no 'second mention'. Three 'types' of questionnaire were tried revealing that the interview based example (call it A) appeared to give the best results. Acting upon this finding, interview based questionnaires B and C were used in the two cited studies, not the same questionnaire previously mentioned. Had the intention been to say that A was trialled, found to be the best, and then used again, then there would be second mention and use of 'the' would be appropriate.
Consider yourself untripped!
Consider yourself untripped!

Thank you so much! Gosh, all seems so clear now.. I'd carve a star on your shell but you'd probably prefer it unblemished.

Helen
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Had the intention been to say that A was trialled,

"Trialled"? Ick!
When a person, place, or thing is subjected to trial, it is "tried."

(BTW, "triage," pronounced TRY-idge, is a fine old English word. It sounds pretententious to me to hear TREE-azh, and I hate to hear it suggested that it comes from a root meaning "three.")

Marshall Price of Miami
Known to Yahoo as d021317c
Had the intention been to say that A was trialled,

"Trialled"? Ick! When a person, place, or thing is subjected to trial, it is "tried."

Except when it's trialled:

You can also get more than a million Google hits on a search for "trialled." It may be jargon, but you can't say it isn't a word in current use.
(BTW, "triage," pronounced TRY-idge, is a fine old English word.

We know that. And you are, of course, free to pronounce it anyway you want. With luck, some people may even understand you
It sounds pretententious to me to hear TREE-azh,

And yet, that's the standard American pronunciation. What part of England is Miami in?
and I hate to hear it suggested that it comes from a root meaning "three.")

Far be it from me ...
Are you going to go through the entire archive of AEU responding to anything you feel like responding to? You're going to fatigue a lot of people in addition to yourself.

Bob Lieblich
Who was once a newbie himself
(BTW, "triage," pronounced TRY-idge, is a fine old English word.

Oui, bien s=FBr! Bien connu chez les rosbifs depuis... uh... 1066?
It sounds pretententious to me to hear TREE-azh,

And yet, that's the standard American pronunciation. What part of England is Miami in?

and I hate to hear it suggested that it comes from a root meaning "three.")

Tout =E0 fait ! Trier - to sort; to sift; to select, pick. On fait le tri.
In the Bristol Royal Infirmary Accident and Emergency Department, "The A & E", the member of staff who assesses the urgency of presenting cases is called the "triage nurse". His or her title is pronounced as is the French word. This is standard throughout the health professions, and is standard usage in the UK as far as I know.

Slightly OT - I am always slightly mystfied by those American phrase books which show the "ge" part of that pronunciation as "azh". I know I'm wrong, but it makes me think the reader is being advised to say "triaze".
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Are you going to go through the entire archive of AEU responding to anything you feel like responding to? You're going to fatigue a lot of people in addition to yourself.

No matter how many people disagree with what he's doing, I think he deserves an award for stamina. A couple of days on and he's still going strong, resurrecting those long-dead threads. Way to go, Marshall! Whoo, yay, etc!

johnF
"That creationism has, in some parts of the United States, achieved equal times in school biology is a travesty of education(.)" The Descent of Darwin , Brian Leith (1982)
(BTW, "triage," pronounced TRY-idge, is a fine old English word.

Oui, bien sûr! Bien connu chez les rosbifs depuis... uh... 1066?

Slightly OT - I am always slightly mystfied by those American phrase books which show the "ge" part of that pronunciation as "azh". I know I'm wrong, but it makes me think the reader is being advised to say
"triaze".

How, according to those American phrase books, do Americans pronounce garage and mirage?
I say the "-ge" in all three as "-zh", but know many people who pronounce them with "-dzh (as in judge and edge)". WTF?

So how do you pronounce them (both syllables, all endings, if you please)?
Encarta
tri·age ( tree aazh ) 1st example stress second syllable, 2nd example stress first, but vowels and consonants similar. (as in MW 10th below, and as in Am. Heritage)
COED
triage /triij/ First syllable bolded for stress (I don't know how the "i" is pronounced, since the same letter appears in both syllables.) I think possibly "try-idj")
M-W 10th
Main Entry: tri·age
Pronunciation: trE-'äzh, 'trE-"
Oui, bien sûr! Bien connu chez les rosbifs depuis... uh... 1066?

Upper Midwestern born and bred, but I had a long stretch in Alabama in the middle:
Triage: Tree-azh (the "zh" has some other sound in there, but nothing as distinct as a "d".)
Garage: Gahr-azh (this one doesn't have that indefinable extra sound in the "zh".)
Mirage: Meer-azh (This one does have that not-quite-a-"d" in the "zh".)
The "a" is more like "ah" though, in all three.

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