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person responsible

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:32 am
by iain
Does anyone have useful advice about how to explain the 'problem' these pairs of sentences would raise if encountered in class? Are these two 'cases' that have simply evolved due to the double meaning of the words 'concerned' and 'responsible'?

I need to speak to the concerned people.
I need to speak to the people concerned.

Who's the responsible person?
Who's the person responsible?

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 1:20 pm
by fluffyhamster
But would they be encountered in class or elsewhere? Surely I'm not alone in finding the first sentence in each pair questionable/less likely:

?I need to speak to the concerned people. (Who'd be unconcerned in a context that caused concern).
I need to speak to the people concerned.

??Who's the responsible person?
Who's the person responsible?

But I have yet to Google 'em, and my intution could be "wrong".

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 1:27 pm
by iain
Yes, you're quite right: a native speaker is unlikely to produce either of the two examples you refer to, but a learner might come up with them, more possibly in written work than in conversation. ("Please notify all the concerned people." "It is important we find the responsible person as soon as possible.")

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:02 pm
by fluffyhamster
Hmm...most learner dictionaries have a note saying 'adj, not before noun' or 'after verb', but sometimes there are examples (and no prohibitions) such as in the Oxford:
con•cerned /knsnd; NAmE srnd/ adj.
1 ~ (about / for sth)| ~ (that ... ) worried and feeling concern about sth: Concerned parents held a meeting. The President is deeply concerned about this issue. He didn’t seem in the least concerned for her safety. She was concerned that she might miss the turning and get lost. note at worried
2 ~ (about / with sth) interested in sth: They were more concerned with how the other women had dressed than in what the speaker was saying. unconcerned see far adv.
It seems that 'concerned parents' are much more concerned (i.e. worried) and thus proactive (note that they organized the meeting!) than those who are just "involved" and only potentially "affected" ('There will be a meeting for the parents concerned(=the relevant parents?)'); perhaps the attributive position is more literal (here at least), and the predicative more an "afterthought"? That is, the attributive is the less periphrastic way of expressing what would seem genuine concern (i.e. that people ARE concerned, not just "concerned": 'The concerned people...'; '...the people ((who) be) concerned'). Then, the reason for these parents' concern was likely writ larger in the genuine discourse that er genuinely preceded the Oxford example than with the examples in this thread. (I'm guessing that the Oxford example is from a newspaper or news report; but even so, it only makes up one "marked" example from the dozens on offer in learner dictionaries).

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 4:01 pm
by Macavity
As I understand things a concerned person is someone who is worried about something or somebody whereas a person concerned is someone who is involved in some way with a given situation. This sort of difference is also true for responsible person, which tells me the person is reliable and trustworthy and person responsible, who might well be someone in charge of something or else has something to answer for.

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 4:59 pm
by thethinker
Maybe the second sentences in each pair are best explained as examples of ellipsis?


I'd like to see person (who is) responsible (for ...)


I'd like to see the person (who is) concerned (with this matter).

But it seems that the phrase after 'concerned' is always left out - in other cases we would prefer something like 'involved in', 'responsible for', e.g. 'I'd like to the see the people involved in this disagreement.'

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:02 pm
by fluffyhamster
Huddleston & Pullum's CGEL (page 445):
[12] ii the people present, the cars involved, the students concerned, the city proper
The adjectives in [12ii] occur both attributively and postpositively, but with a difference in sense. Postpositive present (or (absent) denotes a temporary state of affairs: compare the present government. The same applies to involved and concerned, though here the attributive sense differs more (cf. deeply involved activists, concerned parents).
That is, there will "always" be concerned parents (and the problems they are concerned about) and the like, but the 'parents concerned' are only in this specific/temporary instance. (The supposed/"apparent" contrast might be better shown with 'responsible people' versus 'the people responsible' - 'Are you a responsible person?' versus 'Are you (the person) responsible (for this)?').

Bonus: n ADJ patterns from COBUILD Grammar Patterns 2: Nouns and Adjectives:
1) The "major" group (re: notes in music): flat, major, minor, natural, sharp. a little lullaby in C major.
2) The "elect" group (roles that people are about to take on or no longer have): designate, dowager, elect, emeritus, plenipotentiary. He held the title of Master Emeritus and Professor Emeritus until his death.
3) The "par excellence" group (indicate that someone does or would have liked to do something very well, or is a very good example of something): extraordinaire, incarnate 2 (sense 2 in COBUILD's dictionary), manque, par excellence. While doctors, lawyers and engineers are professionals par excellence, teachers, academics and social workers are insecure in their professional status.
4) The "deep" group (indicate the size/extent of something): deep, high, thick. The grass was knee high; The track was ankle deep in mud.
5) The "northbound" group (indicate one side of a road, esp. a motorway): eastbound, northbound, southbound, westbound. Change at Junction 38 to the M6 northbound.
6) The "celsius" group (indicate the scale on which a temperature is being measured): Celsius, Centrigrade, Farenheit, Kelvin. Temperatures will be warmer than today, up to about eight (degrees) celsius, forty six (degrees) farenheit.
7) The "concerned" group (indicate the people or things involved or relevant in a situation. The noun always comes after the): affected, available, concerned, involved, present, required, responsible, suggested. He plans to use the time available in a more varied way; This is a problem which is rare but nevertheless can be extremely disturbing for the people concerned; The court was told that there was no suggestion that this tampering was carried out by Medical X-ray Supplies. The person responsible had never been found.
8 ) Adjectives with other meanings (Misc): acute 6, deluxe, enough, incarnate 1, included, limited, next, payable, proper 4. The priest, Patstor Joseph Douce (e acute) was a Potestant clergyman; ABC, the city's home furnishing store deluxe; The accurate depiction of a criminal trial will usually provide drama enough; belief in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate; You won't be able to use that train to get to Norfolk from Monday next; The UN women's conference proper will have 40,000 government delegates attending.

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:15 pm
by lolwhites
My intuitive reaction is exactly the same as Macavity's. After all, the person responsible can still be an irresponsible person, and the person concerned might be quite unconcerned!