Do I need to name a source (a website for example), which lists grammar rules for a language? I would like to know if this is considered one of these goods, which cannot be owned and thus needs no quotation.

For example a website lists prepositions, which cause a specific casus in a language. If I take those prepositions and list them in a document for that casus, do I then have reference a source, or can I assume this to be something not owned by anyone?

What about example phrases? They're also part of daily language and should not be owned by anyone.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with having to quote, but I'd probably prefer inventing my own example phrases and such. I don't lack the creativity.

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    Citation is not about ownership.
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 2:01
  • @JeffE Maybe intellectual property is better? Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 9:17
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    @Zelphir : Citation isn't about intellectual property either.
    – Christian
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 10:32
  • @Christian very "informative". Isn't something intellectual property of someone, who came up with it? Isn't that the reason for citing a source? If a source didn't come up with it, but someone else, then I'd rather cite that someone else. But maybe that's the point? That I could also cite secondary sources? Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 10:42
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    @Zelphir : Intellectual property is a legal norm. For those laws citations don't matter. Academic citation requirements are about academic norms.
    – Christian
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


A routine list of basic information does not need a citation: for example, you would not need to cite a list of capital cities of US states, nor would you need to cite the source of a simple list of English prepositions. However, if you cited them in order of frequency of use, you would cite the source from which you took that information, since it is likely not to be considered "basic information."

However, citing examples that you have taken from another source is good practice, and something you should probably do. (Again, the exception is something so basic or so short that it can't really be considered plagiarism: for example, you can't really claim plagiarism to not cite "the book is red"; but if you use a hundred such examples from the same source without citing, it gets murkier.)


I would like to know if this is considered one of these goods, which cannot be owned and thus needs no quotation.

Academic citation isn't about ownership. It's not about copyright. It's not about intellectual property. It's about allowing the reader to know where you got your ideas. It's about recognizing other people for their work.

In many cases different people might describe the grammar of a language a bit differently. They might even describe different dialects of the same language. Different dialects of the language might treat the same prepositions as treating a different casus.

Maria Brenda wrote "The Cognitive Perspective on the Polysemy of the English Spatial Preposition Over" – a whole book over a single preposition and what it does in different cases.

If you cite a specific source for your list then a reader can understand of why your list looks the way it does. If the care they can go to the original source to understand how the list got created.

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    To add to this / boil this down: The grammar of a language is nobody’s intellectual property; descriptions, assessments and systematisations of a grammar are.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 10:54
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    Aha, I always thought that by not citing someone and stating ones name as the author of the document, one is claiming to have come up with it oneself, which would be lying and stealing other people's intellectual property, which would be illegal. So that's not how it is then? It might be a very naive view, but that's how I explained it for myself so far. So you're saying, that citing is merely 'being nice' to ones readers? If that's so, where does plagiarism start? Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 11:00
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    @Zelphir : For academic norms it's plagarism if you use a source without citing it. There are cases where legal copyright is violated. There are cases like ghostwriting that are academic plagarism but that aren't violating legal copyright. Academic norms are a distinct category from legal norms. They are based on different values and differently enforced.
    – Christian
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 11:26

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