LINGUIST List 13.1107

Sun Apr 21 2002

Sum: Definite Articles

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  1. Alena Kandratsenka, Re: Qs: Articles, Political Correctness & Lang Use

Message 1: Re: Qs: Articles, Political Correctness & Lang Use

Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2002 19:15:09 +0300
From: Alena Kandratsenka <akandratsenkayahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Qs: Articles, Political Correctness & Lang Use

Re Linguist http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1055.html

I am a student from Minsk State Linguistics University and I am doing a
research on the definite article. I am currently seeking for examples where
the use of the definite article can't be explained from the point of view of
familiarity or identifiability. If somebody came across such instances, I
would be very interested to receive them.

Thanks to all who responded.

Alena Kandratsenka


A few examples you might find interesting:
	She reads the newspaper every day. (newspaper unspecified; cf. German
_Sie liest jeden Tag die Zeitung_, where position of _die Zeitung_ 'the newspaper'
		after _jeden Tag_ 'every day' reveals that it is unspecified.)
	He always misses the bus. (Again, bus unspecified: he misses all buses.)
	The child still wets the bed. (Whatever bed he happens to be in)
	Hope this helps.
	Leo Connolly
University of Memphis
- -------------------------------------
My paper with Betty Birner discusses such examples. Here's the
reference:
		Birner, Betty J. and Gregory Ward. 1004. ``Uniqueness,
	Familiarity, and the Definite Article in English,'' in
	Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley
	Linguistics Society. Pp. 93-102.
	I'd be interested in reading any papers you have on the topic.
	Best,
Gregory
	_____
Gregory Ward
Professor and Chair
	Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston IL 60208-4090
- ---------------------------------
Dear Alena
How about expletive (definite) articles? See, for example,
	1)195. Longobardi, Giuseppe. 1994. N-to-D movement and the syntax of
logical form. Linguistic Inquiry.

2)Tsimpli, I. 1999. Determiners and Clitics in Greek. In A. Kakouriotis &.
Bolla Mavrides (eds.), Working Papers in Theoretical and Applied linguistics
6, 189-208. Thessaloniki.

3)Vergnaud, Jean Roger & Zubizarreta Maria Luisa 1992. The Definite
Determiner and the Inalienable Constructions in French and in English.
Linguistic Inquiry, 23, 4, 595-652.

	There are cases in Greek where the definite article functions expletively:
	(I'm quoting from Tsimpli 1999)
	The definite article can function as a nominaliser of other catecories,
e.g.
adverbials, wh-phrases, and full clauses:
a. to oti pije monos tu dhen me anisixi.
 the that went-3s alone his not me worry-3s
 "That he went on his own, does not worry me."
b. To pos, ke to pote dhen ta ksero.
 the how and the when not them-know-1s
c. To xtes ke to simera ine gnosta.
 the yesterday and the today are known
"I/We know about yesterday and today."
	Here its primary formal function is to carry case-features
	Furthermore, proper names in Greek must be preceded by the definite article
when they appear in argument position
O Ghianis
The John
Here the semantic features of the determiner do not contribute to the
definiteness of the proper name. Rather, the requirement appears to be
purely morpho-syntactic and the determiner has an expletive/pleonastic
function. function)
	I hope this helps
Eleni Agathopoulou
agathoenl.auth.gr
- ----------------------------------------
Dear Alena
This is a fairly common phenomenon
Eg. You telephone a friend in another town - he is out
 His flat-mate says 'He's just gone to *the pub*'
 OR '...to the hospital/the supermarket/the beach ....etc.'
More -
 we're visiting my mother. we're going on THE TRAIN / THE BUS / THE
METRO
	In the first set of examples, you don't know where these places are and
can't identify them.
This is a feature of oblique cases such as the locative. They could be
seen as only weakly referential. In other words they don't refer strongly
to a particular object, more a general concept. this is particularly so in
the second set - where you can also say 'BY TRAIN/BY BUS' etc. missing out
the article altogether.
	Another type is where the context predicts the existence of something - eg
beware of THE DOG, where's THE POST OFFICE?

Another type is where the adjective requires 'the' or in particular
fixed phrases such as 'we both attended THE SAME SCHOOL'
	
A recent reference for this is in Lyons C.G. 1999. Definiteness. Cambridge
University Press. page 9 and also in Hawkins 1978 Definiteness and
indefiniteness. London: Croom Helm

	My doctorate was about child language and I dealt with it in
the theoretical section Clare Gallaway: The emergence of a and the,
unpublished PhD dissertation, 1987, University of Lancaster. It's
probably available on microfiche.

	I hope this is helpful.
CG
- ----------------------------------------
In idiomatic expressions of the type 'they sell it by the metre' or 'she
drinks it by the litre', you can't really explain the use of the definite
article in terms of identifiability or familiarity.
	Yours
	Michael Swan
- ---------------------------------------------
Dear Alena,
	you might want to have a look at the book by Christopher Lyons
	LYONS, CHRISTOPHER (1999): Definiteness. Cambridge etc.: Cambridge
University Press.

I am interested in your research on the semantics of articles as I
myself m currently working on this subject. If you have some paper on
this I would appreciate getting a copy.
	
Best wishes
Lutz
- --------------------------------------
Dear Alena
 I don't know if this applies to your focus of interest, but you might
like to look at a difference in usage across the more common dialects
of English: in hospital vs in the hospital where some speakers
distinguish the condition of being hospitalized from being in the
hospital building. This difference is popularly attributed to the
dialects of UK vs US English. As with many such beliefs, though, I
imagine that the reality is far more multi-faceted. If your own
mother tongue is free of definite articles, you are well laced to
investigate them in English.

 All the best
Chester Graham
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