5

I stumbled upon this text:

Many thanks go, first of all, to the authors of more than a thousand sentences quoted in Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style. Each author's name and the title of the work appear at the end of the quotation and again in a bibliography-index that includes publisher and date. I hope readers will enjoy these wonderful examples as much as I do and will be inspired by them.
Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, Virginia Tufte.
(emphasis mine)

I wonder why there is no article before publisher and date and yet both publisher and date are in the singular. As far as I know, both of them are almost always used in the singular. And if I happened to write that by any remote chance, I guess I would write it as either publishers and dates or the publisher and date. (That is, it should be in the plural or else I should use an article there.)

I tried to come up with a good way to explain this case of a bare noun phrase (also known as "bare NP", or "bare nominal"), but couldn't come up with one. It's unlike "prep. + noun" phrases (such as by bus, at home, on phone, etc.) It's also unlike bare noun phrases designating a role being used after a linking verb (such as "He became president of ..." "She became secretary-treasurer and chief executive officer"). Maybe it's like go to hospital, where hospital is used as if it's a mass noun. (Then again, it's after to, which is also a preposition.) But I'm not sure.

How should we explain this use of publisher and date?

  • @pazzo Nice catch! In case you spot an error like this of mine again (which is pretty likely, imo), please feel free to edit the post as you see fit. Thank you in advance, and thanks again for this catch! – Damkerng T. May 7 '15 at 15:15
  • well, you see, I thought I caught a error in StoneyBs answer. But I didn't. But I still don't know what a 'tuple' is. Never heard of it. – user6951 May 7 '15 at 21:33
5

I've seen this sort of thing growing in frequency over the last forty or fifty years. I think what's involved is what you might call 'form style' or 'table style', reinforced by programming styles.

  • To save space (and effort on the designer's part), forms you have to fill out typically do not use articles:

    Name: ________________
    Address: ______________

    This is true even in instructions ('Enter name, address and telephone number below').

  • Tables, likewise, use bare nouns or nominals:

    | Name               | Country of residence         |
    -----------------------------------------------------
    | StoneyB            | USA                          |
    | DamkerngT          | Thailand                     |
    -----------------------------------------------------
    
  • And in programming, of course, terms like this are not entities but names of entities: classes or variables or fields or whatever.

In your example I think the same sort of thinking is at work: the author thinks of the words publisher and date not as individuals but as categories, headings on a table or components of a structure. They're not exactly 'indeterminate', but the determiner proper to the individual shifts from tuple to tuple: The Godfather's publisher, Of Mice and Men's publisher, and so forth.

  • Tuple = title??? – user6951 May 7 '15 at 14:33
  • @pazzo: Well, in this case I guess the title would be the key field of the record/tuple. – StoneyB on hiatus May 7 '15 at 15:22
  • Sry nvr hrd uv tuple b4. – user6951 May 7 '15 at 21:32
1

Can't it be merely for brevity's sake? In fact he's referring to a bibliography index, so 'publisher' and 'date' have no article because they are just headers.

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