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#1
Old 03-16-2007, 08:38 PM
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Why do so many Country/state/Province names end with the letter A?

America, Lithuainia, Canada, Alberta, Alabama, no doubt you can add to this list...
My question is why does it happen?

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#2
Old 03-16-2007, 08:59 PM
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People had a template in their minds based on the ancient names, like Asia, and just extended it? Hasn't '-ia' almost become a catch-all ending meaning 'place of'? I'm thinking of places like Monrovia, named after James Monroe, and Strong Badia, named after you-know-who.
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#3
Old 03-16-2007, 09:30 PM
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Based on the examples I can think of, by far the majority of country names in romance languages are feminine. It may be that way in Germanic languages too. I'm sure that just carried on into English. (We don't have gendered nouns in the same way, but most names ending in -a or -e are feminine.) I'd guess that they do it to establish an easier pattern for converting from the country name to the word for its inhabitants, the language, etc.
#4
Old 03-16-2007, 09:37 PM
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Oh, and I'll also mention that many of the countries ending with -a in English are the same except for ending with -e (the feminine ending) in French, such as Lithuania/Lithuanie, Russia/Russie, China/Chine, etc. So again, I bet we just got the feminine words from French, but switched the -e to -a.
#5
Old 03-16-2007, 10:27 PM
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If you look at the Entrance page to Wikipedia in German] you find only a very few -a endings in the Geography section near the top of the page.
I suspect that the Romance language hypothesis answers a great many names.
America, of course, is Latin and a number of similar names probably have Latin roots. California, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Florida are all taken directly from Spanish (or some butchered version thereof). Carolina and Virginia are latiized names. (Louisiana may be Spanish as I am not sure whether the spelling and pronunciation came into English while it was occupied by France or Spain. Certtainly it came directly from a Romance language.)

As for states and provinces, I suspect that the various Indian place names that might have had endings that varied among the schwa sound, and the sounds of the broad a, short e, short a, short u, and even a few short i endings tended to get normalized on maps with the -a suffix which, in turn, influenced the pronunciation that had a Latin or Spanish appearance. Alabama is taken from the Alibamu nation of Indians. Dakota is the pronunciation of the word for ally from one of the principal dialects of the Great Sioux Nation. Iowa is a "normalized" spelling and pronunciation for one of the smaller Sioux tribes rendered, variously as Iowa and Ioway. Nebraska is a word meaning "flat waters" in the Chimere Sioux dialect. (I'm not sure of its exact original pronunciation and it, too, may have been normalized.) Minnesota is taken from a normalized spelling of a Dakota dialect work for milky water. Utah (if you are counting it with its silent final H), comes from the Ute language identifying those people (people living in the mountains) as the original inhabitants.
Manitoba has an unclear etymology, but hypothesized orgins include various normalized Indian words such as mini tobow, maniotwapow, and Manitou abah. Alberta is named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, who received her name from a feminized variant of her father, Prince Albert.
Canada came from Cartier's (16th century French phonetic) rendering of a Huron word for village.
#6
Old 03-17-2007, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snailboy
Oh, and I'll also mention that many of the countries ending with -a in English are the same except for ending with -e (the feminine ending) in French, such as Lithuania/Lithuanie, Russia/Russie, China/Chine, etc. So again, I bet we just got the feminine words from French, but switched the -e to -a.
Yeah, why is it that whenever nations personify their land, it's always female?
#7
Old 03-17-2007, 04:46 PM
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Yeah, why is it that whenever nations personify their land, it's always female?
I offer "The Fatherland" as a counter-example, at least of a sobriquet.
#8
Old 03-17-2007, 06:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shoshana
I offer "The Fatherland" as a counter-example, at least of a sobriquet.
Fatherland refers to the land where your father (and other ancestors) came from. It doesn't refer to any specific country. In German the term Vaterland is neuter. So are Deutschland and most other countries, including almost all of those ending in "-ia" in English ("-ien" in German.) A few countries are named in a way that is more typical for regions. Those are feminine with a definite article: Turkey, Mongolia, Ukraine. A few others are commonly used in masculine forms with article although it is discouraged in formal usage: Congo, Sudan, Yemen, Chad.
The gender of the long forms of names is determined by the head word: Ireland is neuter, but the Republic of Ireland is feminine because republic is. America is neuter, United States of America is masculine and plural.
#9
Old 03-17-2007, 06:16 PM
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United States of America, despite what it sounds like, is not plural. 'The USA is one of the members of the UN Security Council.'
#10
Old 03-17-2007, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Captain Carrot
United States of America, despite what it sounds like, is not plural. 'The USA is one of the members of the UN Security Council.'
All my examples described the German forms because several snailboy and tomndeb brought up a possible germanic/romance difference. In German both Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika and USA are definitely plural.
#11
Old 03-17-2007, 06:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Carrot
United States of America, despite what it sounds like, is not plural. 'The USA is one of the members of the UN Security Council.'
It is in German. You would say "zu den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika", since Staaten is plural, not "zum Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika" on the basis of Staat being masculine, nor "zur Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika" on the basis of Amerika being feminine.

Last edited by psychonaut; 03-17-2007 at 06:43 PM. Reason: fix adjective inflections
#12
Old 03-17-2007, 06:42 PM
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Oh. Right. Oops.
#13
Old 03-17-2007, 06:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kellner
All my examples described the German forms because several snailboy and tomndeb brought up a possible germanic/romance difference. In German both Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika and USA are definitely plural.
Well, to be fair, "die USA ist…" (with the verb conjugating as if USA is singular) seems to be a fairly common construction; it gets 83,100 Google hits, compared to "die USA sind…" (plural) with 219,000.
#14
Old 03-17-2007, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Carrot
United States of America, despite what it sounds like, is not plural. 'The USA is one of the members of the UN Security Council.'
Supposedly that dates from the Civil War. Before the war plural was common, after the was the singular form became standard.
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#15
Old 03-17-2007, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
Well, to be fair, "die USA ist…" (with the verb conjugating as if USA is singular) seems to be a fairly common construction; it gets 83,100 Google hits, compared to "die USA sind…" (plural) with 219,000.
Yes, but not a single result on my first page* used "die USA" as a subject of "ist". All occurences were taken from the middle of phrases like "Für die USA ist ..." The first result that really used "USA" as a singular was a stylistically challenged rant about the "terror state USA" on the second page. Of course the other number also contains false positives and a few people use it as a singular but trust me, it sounds far more horrible than a factor of three would indicate.

* Google reorders search results based on browser language settings, so we might not see exactly the same links.
#16
Old 03-18-2007, 01:16 AM
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Entirely in order to frustrate people trying to play the game 'Geography.'















what?
#17
Old 09-29-2013, 04:41 PM
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-a means "domain of"

There's an elaborate explanation on this subject, a really really interesting read, I found in this book, "God's Untold Story" which explains the origin to have been in Syria, where places were named as the domain of ancient God-Kings, and that's how the standard began

http://amazon.com/Gods-Untold-St...s+Untold+Story
#18
Old 09-29-2013, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Carrot View Post
United States of America, despite what it sounds like, is not plural.
It was before 1865.
#19
Old 09-29-2013, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
It was before 1865.
And it still is in Spanish (Los Estados Unidos de América) and French (Les États- Unis d'Amérique). I think it's the same way in all Romance languages.

Last edited by alphaboi867; 09-29-2013 at 05:55 PM.
#20
Old 09-29-2013, 10:49 PM
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In Latin, the word for land (terra) is feminine. In Italian and French, the word for republic (repubblica/république) is feminine too. In Arabic, the words for land (arḍ), country (dawlah), republic (jumhūrīyah), the emirates (al-Amīrāt), and the United States (al-Wilāyāt al-Muttaḥidah) are all feminine. Moreover, Arabic names of countries are always feminine by definition. This is all merely grammatical gender, and is not trying to imply that countries are actually girls. However, the national personifications are conventionally women because in Latin their names are grammatically feminine.
#21
Old 09-30-2013, 10:15 AM
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For example Amerigo Vespucci latinized his name as Americus, so his feminized latinized name was applied to the land- America. Could be worse, they could be the United States of Vespuccia.
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