I'm editing an article which talks about early terms for artefacts in the Russian language, but the article is in English. Both Russian and English have a diverse field of synonyms for 'thing' - I was wondering if anyone can spot any semantic differences between 'thing', 'object', 'piece' and 'item'? Be as subjective as you please!
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
closed as off topic by Alex B., prash♦, Otavio Macedo♦ Feb 28 '13 at 17:54
Questions on Linguistics Stack Exchange are expected to relate to linguistics within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
Thing and object are a classic example of terms of Germanic origin versus Latin (or Norman French) origin, therefore informal/formal, domestic/intellectual (or legal) type of distinction. Does Russian have formal and informal registers? Piece and item are both parts of a larger group, but items feel like they are complete in themselves, whereas piece feels incomplete. (Jigsaw puzzles have pieces, not items, whereas collections tend to items rather than pieces) In usage of course this is not always so, as piecework tends to mean being paid for items.... And concerts have items, but you tend to practise them as pieces.....
You did say to be subjective....
I have no actual research backup for this, but I tend to see "thing" as being more amorphous. "Object usually means a discrete object, and I tend to imagine it as small unless otherwise specified, but that may be personal. "Piece" implies that it's either part of a whole or there are multiple items. "Item" ... I guess pretty similar to "object" - if I had to make a distinction, I'd say that I use 'object' for something just lying around and 'item' for something deliberate - an item in a shopping trolley or on a list or something.
That's all pretty personal, though.