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Thread: Why do these biology textbooks write 'differential' as an adjective, rather than 'dif

  1. #1
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    Question Why do these biology textbooks write 'differential' as an adjective, rather than 'dif

    Are these books using 'differential' correctly? Why not just write 'different'? English isn't my first language, and I don't understand the difference between 'differential' and 'different' as adjectives.

    1. Handbook of the Biology of Aging edited by Edward J. Masoro, Steven N. Austad. p 480.

    2. The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology edited by David L. Hull, Michael Ruse. p 46.

    3. p 78.
    4. Dictionary of Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology by Gurbachan Miglani. Anyone know the page #?

  2. #2
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    English is not my first tongue too. I see the usage of different and differential depends on style you use.

    One group of people has different live conditions than other group of people.
    Those groups of people have differential live conditions.

    Their live conditions differential is huge.

  3. #3
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    "Different" has the meaning of "not the same", but "differential" conveys the idea of how differences are significant.

    Here's an example from medicine. Suppose a doctor is confronted with a set of symptoms. It may be that essentially the same symptoms can lead to different diagnoses. The problem is, he or she doesn't just want to reach a different diagnosis, but the one which is correct. After all, different diagnoses may lead to very different treatments.

    This diagnosis based on specific and perhaps even subtle differences in the symptoms and test results is called a differential diagnosis. "'Guinea pig fever' may look very much like 'rabbit fever', but here's how we're able to distinguish (or differentiate) between the two."

    (Sometimes English can seem like a foreign language even to its native speakers. )
    Last edited by geebee; 07-30-2021 at 03:03 AM.
    Besides British-German-Catalan, ancestry includes smaller amounts of French, Irish, Swiss, Choctaw & another NA tribe, possibly Catawba. Avatar picture is: my father, his father, & his father's father; baby is my eldest brother.


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  5. #4
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    Agree with geebee above.
    At the same time, some writers get so caught up in using a special word in a distinctive way, that when they return to a context where the ordinary term could be used, then they do not do it.
    I trained first in science.
    When I studied some sociology as well, I found that this sort of practice was endemic there.
    Sometimes it was because the original thinkers in that area spoke French or German and the terms in those languages did not quite translate: new English terms needed to be found for just that meaning. But later, native English speaking thinkers got into the habit of doing it in English.
    You need a good guide to terms as used in that discipline.

    I found some of your examples confusing because, from my mathematical training, "differential" is about rate of change, and some of those uses could easily have meant that.

    In general, because English has so many words, multiple uses are less frequent than some other languages.
    In many cases there can even be two words for the same thing: a word of Germanic origin (from AngloSaxon) as well as a "Latinate" form (from Norman French or Latin - or sometimes from classical Greek), that might mean exactly the same thing, or the Latinate form has a tone of educated upper class.

    All up, it's no joke!
    Last edited by Saetro; 08-03-2021 at 07:49 PM.

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