Author Topic: Changing words in a quotation  (Read 1641 times)

Offline Natalia

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Changing words in a quotation
« on: December 16, 2016, 03:35:43 AM »
I would like to ask you a question. Please have a look at the following passage from my diploma thesis:

"The general picture emerging from the above discussion is rather discouraging. None of the criteria discussed above is able to neatly differentiate between compounds and syntactic phrases, even if all of them were to be applied collectively. In his article “When is a sequence of two nouns a compound in English?” (1998: 78) Bauer asserts that “(…) any distinction drawn on the basis of just one of these criteria is simply a random division of noun + noun constructions, not a strongly motivated borderline between syntax and lexicon”. Hence, it would probably make more sense to talk about  more compound-like and less compound-like formations, without drawing any categorical demarcation."

In this passage, I used a quotation from Bauer's article, however, in order to clarify meaning, I would like to change "these" (in "these criteria") into "the possible" criteria.

The whole quotation is as follows: "I have tried to argue above that none of the possible criteria give a reliable distinction between two types of construction. The implication is that any distinction drawn on the basis of just one of these criteria is simply a random division of noun + noun constructions, not a strongly motivated borderline between syntax and lexicon”


Therefore, is it possible to slighlty modify the quotation, just as I did below?

In his article “When is a sequence of two nouns a compound in English?” (1998: 78) Bauer asserts that “(…) any distinction drawn on the basis of just one of [the possible] criteria is simply a random division of noun + noun constructions, not a strongly motivated borderline between syntax and lexicon”.

I have read that square brackets can be used when writers want to insert or alter words in a direct quotation, but I would like to make sure.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2016, 03:58:51 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2016, 04:31:42 AM »
Yes, you can use square brackets to change parts of a quotation for clarity in the context of your paper. However, you should be careful to never change the meaning, even in small ways. (For example, you don't want to give the impression that the writer of the quotation supported your ideas more directly than they did, if maybe it's older writing or they are using a slightly different theory, even if they are basically saying something similar to what you mean.)

The three reasons you should change quotations:
1. To clarify a meaning out of context. For example, you might replace "he" with "[Noam Chomsky]". Sometimes for this purpose you might add an explanation rather than replacing anything: "he [Noam Chomsky]".
2. To fit the grammatical context of your sentence. A very common example would be changing upper case to lower case: He said that "[l]inguistics is important." (Some people actually skip this because it doesn't really change the meaning or grammar at all, but the idea would apply for something like changing "is" to "[was]", and many other things too.)
3. Rarely, to make a correction, if there is an error in the original text.

And of course sometimes you just want to make a quotation shorter, so you can use ... (or some people would use [...], but that isn't required by everyone because the dots imply it is a change in themselves, the one time you don't always need the square brackets).

As you can see, none of those times change the meaning of the quotation. Most of the time it's because to try to avoid this, and one way is to incorporate shorter quotations. For a long quotation, especially a block quote (presented separately as its own paragraph) it's best to not change the text if possible, maybe instead giving enough context so it is clear what the writer is talking about.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 04:12:47 PM by djr33 »
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2016, 04:51:56 AM »
Thank you for your clarification. Let me ask you just one more question beacuse I am a little confused.

If there is a passage: "I have tried to argue above that none of the possible criteria give a reliable distinction between two types of construction. The implication is that any distinction drawn on the basis of just one of these criteria" (Bauer, 1998: 78)

and I quote the part from "any distinction drawn...", should I write it as in (1), (2), or (3)? What does it depend on?
1) Bauer asserts that "any distinction drawn..."
2) Bauer asserts that "...any distinction drawn..."
3) Bauer asserts that "(...) any distinction drawn..."
« Last Edit: December 16, 2016, 05:06:26 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2016, 10:45:13 AM »
There's no reason to use ... at all if you are including it obviously as a part of a sentence. You would use ... to indicate that you removed the middle of a quotation, or to clarify that there is more information before/after the beginning (in case by not including ... you would suggest that you are including the whole idea/definition/whatever).

In other words, having ... at the beginning/end of a quotation is rare.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2016, 03:43:39 PM »
OK I understand. So just to make sure: I can use "..." at the beginning or end of a quotation to indicate that there is more information included, but it is NOT necessary. Am I right?

Incidentally, if there is a sentences like this:
 "Overall, all the above authors leave it unclear how far such an analogical approach can reach."

And I want to turn the "how far..." part into a question, should I do it in the following way:

"One might ask, "[H]ow far such an analogical approach can reach[?]"

Or I can just skip the brackets? You said that some people would not use brackets at all beacuse in fact there is no change in meaning and grammar.

« Last Edit: December 16, 2016, 04:02:05 PM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2016, 04:04:20 PM »
Quote
OK I understand. So just to make sure: I can use "..." at the beginning or end of a quotation to indicate that there is more information included, but it is NOT necessary. Am I right?
Correct. It would be rare, but it's possible. For example, if you include only part of a list, or only part of a definition, and usually if your quotation might be mistaken for a complete sentence/quotation otherwise.

Yes, you could use the square brackets for that, but it isn't necessary. I would write it this way:
One might ask, "how far such an analogical approach can reach"?
or
One might ask, "how far such an analogical approach can reach".
One might ask, "how far such an analogical approach can reach."

Yes, technically some styles would require that you must have the punctuation mark inside of the quotation, and in that case if you're adding a question mark you might would want to put it in brackets. My point is just that it's better to try to integrate it and put changes outside of the quotation marks if possible.

The other way to make all of this smoother is to use paraphrasing more. You don't really need all of those words, but maybe just a short phrase in the middle.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2016, 03:41:21 AM »
Thank you very much for your helpful comments and suggestions.

There is, however, still one thing I would like to make sure about.
namely, I have been taught that we use double quotation marks for quotations and single quotation marks for terms and definitions.

Therefore, If there is a sentence like this: "There are two principles of meaning formation which specify aspects of the semantics of primary compounds" (Allen, 1978)
And I want to write that Allen proposes two principles of meaning formation such as Variable R Condition etc., and I want to underline principles of meaning formation as a unique term used only by the author, should I put it in a single quotation mark? 
For example, "Allen proposes two general 'principles of meaning formation' which specify..."
« Last Edit: December 17, 2016, 04:15:49 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2016, 05:15:51 AM »
Because you're quoting your own text in which you'll be quoting, it would be easier to read if you offset it in [ quote ] .... [ /quote ].

By American standards, yes, double quotes for quotations, and single quotes for other purposes such as indicating special terminology (also called scare quotes and disliked by some) or quotations inside quotations.

(This can actually be the other way around-- single quotes first then double quotes for quotes within quotes-- according to some British standards, in case that is relevant.)

As for a term like that, you don't need to actually quote it. Just use it. If you think it belongs in single quotes (because YOU think it's not quite a real term, or not a general term) that is fine. But it doesn't really matter either way. Rarely would you put a term in double quotes, because it doesn't matter too much. You can use someone's terminology, the name of their theory, etc., without directly quoting them (but in that case you still should cite their paper!).

Sometimes you can use italics instead of single quotes, or other types of emphasis.

Anyway, what you wrote seems ok, or you can say "what he calls...", or you can italicize it, or just not emphasize it at all (because the phrase seems literal to me-- principles that describe the formation of meaning, that's not a special technical term, unless you think it is in this specific context or if it has some unusual meaning that readers can't guess). If you do directly state something like "What he calls..." then you could actually put the term itself in double quotation marks, if you want to discuss terminology. If not, you probably don't need to (and shouldn't).
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2016, 05:45:24 AM »
So if a word or phrase is used in a special sense, I can put it in single quotes or italicise it?

For example:
          These compounds are based on what Bauer calls 'combining forms'.

If there is a term written in capital letters, should I also use quotation marks? For example:

[Allen proposes a principle of meaning formation, the so-called ‘Variable R Condition'.]

[This generalization has been formulated by Roeper and Siegel as the ‘First Sister Principle’.]
« Last Edit: December 17, 2016, 06:56:31 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2016, 02:44:52 PM »
If you also want to emphasize the term, yes, you can put it in quotes, italicize it, etc. Or you could use (small?) capitals if you want. (Usually small capitals and bold are used when a term is introduced in a textbook or similar work. It isn't emphatic as much as it is highlighting it for the student to learn the new word, so it doesn't serve the same purpose as single quotes in a research article.)
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2016, 06:45:50 AM »
OK I see. But once I emphasise the term (using, for example, single quotes) and then I mention it a second time in a sentence, can I just use it without any emphasis?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2016, 02:19:15 PM »
It's up to you. But if you're using the term without quotes/emphasis later, then maybe you don't need it in the first place. Generally quotations around a term are for usage you don't entirely agree with.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2016, 02:44:24 PM »
I have noted that many authors emphasise the names of someone's theory (such as the Compound Stress Rule, the First Sister Principle, the Variable R Condition, etc.) by using italics, quotes or bold letters (if they mention it for the first time). Then they just use the term without any emphasis. It is not that they highlight a term because they do not agree with it.

I just do not know whether it will be better to emphasise the name of someone's theory when I mention it for the first time, or just leave it without any emphasis.

From what you have said, I assume that I can do it either way?
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 03:01:33 PM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2016, 03:06:23 PM »
Quote
I have noted that many authors emphasise the names of someone's theory (such as the First Sister Principle, the Variable R Condition, etc.) by using italics or bold letters (if they mention it for the first time). Then they just use the term without any emphasis. It is not that they highlight a term because they do not agree with it.
That's fine, for bold/italics. For quotes, it suggests you might not agree with it (or that it might not be standard, etc.).

Quote
From what you have said, I assume that it will not be a mistake to use the name of someone's theory without any emphasis? If I do not want to emphasise the name of a specific theory later, I can just use it without any empahsis in the first place?
Right.

Capitalized names (Minimalist Program, Generative Syntax, etc.) suggest specific or official theories, rather than just generic theories. There are no rules about when you must use those, but maybe that's what you're looking for.


In the end, the most important points are:

1. Cite everything clearly. It doesn't matter if you use a direct quotation, etc., as much as that you clearly cite the source. Any of the following are about the same:
Quote
minimalist program (Chomsky 1995)
Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995)
minimalist program (Chomsky 1995)
"minimalist program" (Chomsky 1995)
[etc.]
(In this case, usually it's capitalized by most authors working in syntax, but there's no "rule" about that, and that's just one particular example.)

2. Be clear about what terms mean. Include definitions when possible (or at least clear citations to a reference work or original source). The same term can be used differently by different authors (even when it really is the "same term", not just the same words used as two different terms), the reader might not be familiar with the standard usage anyway, and you also might be interpreting it in a particular way that isn't the same as what the original author meant, or it might be the definition used at one time in one paper but maybe not in all papers about the topic.
(Personally this is one of my biggest complaints about linguistics research: for researchers who obviously care about words and language use, we're really bad at consistently using terminology to mean the same thing, and even to be clear about what we mean individually!)
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Changing words in a quotation
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2016, 03:44:26 PM »
Thank you for clarifying this. Of course, I always cite the source - that is the most important.

And if I talk about general terms, as in the example:

"This affix is often called a linking element, an interfix or an allomorph"

Can I just leave the terms as they are, without using quotation marks? Is it optional?

(By contrast: This affix is often called a 'linking element', an 'interfix' or an 'allomorph')

As for the point 2, unfortunately, many existing classification of compounds show an inconsistent use of labels. For example, some authors define a specific type of compound as copulative, other auhtors call the same type appositional etc.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 04:00:19 PM by Natalia »