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Picture of shufitz
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What's the difference between a 'nation' and a 'country'? Apparently Chinese has only one word, and Taiwanese diplomants have had to turn to English to find separate words to separate the concepts so as to express their diplomatic position. (See below.) But what is the distinction?
    Taiwan's New Doctrine Unintelligible in Chinese, Seth Faison, New York Times, July 21, 1999:
    Even with all the justifications, interpretations and clarifications that Taiwan's leaders have offered in recent days to try to explain their new relationship to the Chinese mainland, one thing stands out: They can't say it in Chinese. The formula that Taiwan invented to redefine itself as a separate state but not an independent country from China is so hard to articulate that officials here routinely resort to English.

    "We believe there is one nation and two countries," said Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan's chief spokesman, speaking in English in an interview Tuesday. Invited to say the same thing in Chinese, Chen paused and then replied, again in English: "We are still looking for the right words." It is a perplexing problem. In Chinese, "nation" and "country" and even "state" are the same word: "guojia" (pronounced gwo-jah). Yet Taiwan officials like the slightly different gradings that those words each carry in English, conveniently allowing them to argue simultaneously that Taiwan is no longer part of China while not declaring independence.

    So they use the English words, even though Taiwan is a Chinese-speaking country, or state, or nation -- or whatever. Beijing, for the record, calls Taiwan a province.Many Taiwan officials, when discussing the issue in Chinese, simply say "state" or "nation" in English.

    It has been 11 days since President Lee Teng-hui created a diplomatic crisis by calling Taiwan a separate country, yet he and other Taiwan leaders are still struggling to find a way to express what they want: more distance from China, without getting crushed by an irate Beijing. On Tuesday, Lee fine-tuned his message. But for the ordinary listener that did not help much. "Only after a democratic reunification can there be a possibility of one China," Lee said, in Chinese for once. "One China is not now."

    Got that?
 
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The UK is a nation, which comprises several countries.


Richard English
 
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The UK is a nation, which comprises several countries.

Actually, I would have said it the other way round. To me, a nation is some group of people who share some traits by birth (natio < nascor 'to be born'). Wales hasn't been a country for quite some time, but it's still a nation. The Irish, on the other hand, are one nation divided into two countries.
 
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Wales hasn't been a country for quite some time, but it's still a nation.

I think the Welsh (along with the Scots) would have something to say about that. They both have their own Parliamentary assembly and their own language.


Richard English
 
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They both have their own Parliamentary assembly and their own language.

I'd say language is one of the traits I was talking about which identifies a nation. If Scotland and Wales are truly countries why are there separatist movements in both? California has a congress, but it's not a country (nor would I say a nation); it's a state which is part of a federation.

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I agree with jheem; the UK is a country composed of several nations.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I would call the UK one state and four countries. In many regards the four components are countries in the ordinary sense: they have national anthems, national capitals, national teams, separate histories and legal systems (mostly). There is no other state quite like the UK: it isn't a federation of autonomous provinces (as the USA, Australia, Canada are) but a union of countries.

Each country is of course inhabited by its nation, with the possible exception of Northern Ireland, but that's depend which side who you asked was on.
 
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There are also nations without a country. The Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and the ex-Soviet Union spring to mind. They are agitating for a Kurdistan though.
 
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School geography texts these days differentiate like so:

Country -- Refers to either a nation or a state
The difference lies in "nation," "state," and "nation-state:"
State -- Self-governing political unit
Nation -- Region of people with a common cultural tie (language, ethnicity, etc.)
Nation-state -- A state composed of a single nation

"Palestine" and "Kurdistan" are both nations just as Switzerland and France are, they just lack statehood. Switzerland and France are both nation-states - their populations are each a nation of "Swiss" and "French," respectively. (Though that distinction is in modern times becoming increasingly blurred.) North Korea is a better example of a nation-state.

Then there are just plain "states" that can include several nations, such as the USA, India, China, etc.
 
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"E Pluribus Unum" is a clear reference to the thirteen colonies united into one nation – symbolized by the shield on the eagle's breast. As explained in the official description of the Great Seal, the thirteen vertical stripes "represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress. The Motto alludes to this union."
 
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This is an interesting discussion. For those of us in the U.S. "state" means "one of the constituent units of a nation having a federal government." Yet, a state can also mean, "the political organization that has supreme civil authority and political power and serves as the basis of government." Those definitions both came from Dictionary.com. Of course, the latter does not apply to U.S. states because the federal government has the "supreme" authority. It is interesting that some of you say that the UK is 1 state and 4 countries. That is exactly the opposite in the U.S.; we have 50 states and 1 country.
 
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'State' has the second meaning of 'province' largely because of the United States of America. The thirteen colonies that rebelled and united (quiz question: how many British colonies were there in North America in early 1776?) considered themselves independent states, and the country they created together was a union of states.

As the USA came to be seen as a single country, its constituent 'states' came to be seen as its subdivisions or provinces: so the same word is used for the subdivisions of e.g. Mexico, Brazil, and India, though they were never sovereign states before those countries were created. Only in Australia is there a situation like the USA, where the constituent 'states' are sovereign and derogated some of their powers to the federation.

Actually I think it was the United States of the Netherlands that was first to call itself a union of states in this way.
 
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The Iroquois Confederacy might have had some influence on the formation of the U.S.A.
 
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quiz question: how many British colonies were there in North America in early 1776?

27?
 
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As the USA came to be seen as a single country, its constituent 'states' came to be seen as its subdivisions or provinces: so the same word is used for the subdivisions of e.g. Mexico, Brazil, and India, though they were never sovereign states before those countries were created. Only in Australia is there a situation like the USA, where the constituent 'states' are sovereign and derogated some of their powers to the federation.

Actually, 47 of the 50 US states have never been independent, sovereign political units, having the "nation" powers such as coining money, exchanging ambassadors, signing treaties, etc. Almost all of them were either British colonies or US territories prior to statehood. (The three exceptions are Texas, Hawaii and very briefly, Vermont.)

PS: "'derogated' some of their powers"? Was 'delegated' intended, or is there a meaning I'm not aware of?
 
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And the fourth independent state: California (very briefly, unlike the 14 years for Vermont).

But the original colonies did take up sovereign status, having their own people being the foundation of government. And all subsequent creations have equal rights with them, so they're sovereign too. The federal system of the USA, Australia, and Canada is based on a coming-together of many sovereignties, not a parvcelling-out of a single one.
 
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It took me sooo long to find this post! I couldn't remember where it was, and none of my search words worked.

So...is 27 right? I am not sure about that number, and I'd be interested in the real number. I knew that there were some Canadian colonies (the clue was "North America").

In looking for them now, I had forgotten about the 2 Floridas. I found this interesting site about the east and west Florida colonies.

Hmmm, it seems you Brits have more in common with Florida than the rest of us in the U.S. do! Wink I couldn't believe that they burned the likenesses of John Adams and John Hancock in effigy!
 
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Hmmm, it seems you Brits have more in common with Florida than the rest of us in the U.S. do!

Well, there are certainly more of us there on holiday (vacation) than there are Yanks. Florida (Orlando especially) is the most popular long-haul destination for UK holidaymakers.

One reason why you can buy cask-conditioned Fuller's ales there, I suspect.


Richard English
 
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Florida (Orlando especially) is the most popular long-haul destination for UK holidaymakers.

Hoo! You Brits need to learn about the good places to visit in the U.S. Wink
 
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Okay...now I must know how many British colonies there were in North America in early 1776! I had guessed 27. Does anyone know?
 
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