Regional countries

Caught in a public radio news report about Afghanistan this morning, a reference to “three regional countries”, meaning ‘three countries in the region [that Afghanistan is in]’. Not a remarkable example of a non-predicating adjective (latest discussion here) — of a type that is interpreted much like a noun, so that regional country is parallel to area country ‘country in the area’. There is, however some interest in the question of how the region (or area) is identified from context.

Often, the region is specified by reference to some named country: Afghanistan in the example above, the UAE and Sri Lanka in the following examples:

UAE tops regional countries in e-readiness rankings (link)

About Sri Lanka: Regional Countries On Alert for Prabhakaran’s Escape (link)

And in this example, where the reference country, Iraq, is itself specified in a non-predicating adjective:

Regional countries meddle in Iraqi affairs (link)

(Note that sometimes the regional countries are the full set, including the reference country, and sometimes the set other than the reference country.)

Other times the region is named:

Central Asia: Regional Countries, Japan Agree on Action Plan (link)

Sometimes the countries are listed, as in stories in several places about the “Balkanpol” security coordination pact in which Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia are the regional countries in question.

Finally, sometimes the region is the one from which the story originates, as in this Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation story:

Three regional countries report positive cases of deadly virus (link)

(The countries in question were the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Jamaica.)

Two final notes. First, another use of regional country, to mean ‘country with regions’, as here:

All Canadians are or should be aware that Canada is a regional country. We usually think of six regions;

But most of the time we reduce that to three areas (link)

Again, there is an association with the noun region, but with a different sense relation to country from the one in the other examples above.

Second, region and area stand in an interesting relationship to one another in composite expressions: the noun area, rather than the adjective areal, is used as the first element of composites like X countries/cities; while the reverse is true for region:  the adjective regional, rather than the noun region, is used in such composites. So, area cities ‘cities in the area’ is fine, but areal cities is awkward and rare; while regional cities ‘cities in the region’ is fine, but region cities is awkward and rare.

But things are reversed again when the first element of the composite is not just the single word region/regional, but rather is itself a composite, with a proper name as its first element, as in the attested:

Caspian (Sea) region countries
Baltic (Sea) region countries
Mekong region countries

(meaning ‘countries in the X region’). The versions with regional strike me as awkward, and they seem to be much rarer than the versions with region; a Google search on {“Baltic regional countries”} netted only one page — and Google helpfully asked whether I meant “Baltic region countries”.

No doubt there’s a bigger iceberg here, but this will do for a quick morning posting.

One Response to “Regional countries”

  1. Porn hypallage? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] For Adj + N composites, the default relationship R between Adj and N is predication: a big dog is a dog that is big. Such cases involve predicating adjectives. But there are several types of non-predicating adjectives, some of which I’ve posted about — for instance, contiguous country, here, and regional country, here. […]

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