HOME

TheInfoList




An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with
noun phrases A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase that has a noun or pronoun as its head (linguistics), head or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common linguistic typology, cross-linguistically, and they may be ...

noun phrases
to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The category of articles constitutes a
part of speech In traditional grammar A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer t ...
. In English, both "the" and "a/an" are articles, which combine with a noun to form a noun phrase. Articles typically specify the grammatical
definiteness In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
of the noun phrase, but in many languages, they carry additional grammatical information such as
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...
,
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
, and
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
. Articles are part of a broader category called
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
s, which also include
demonstratives Demonstratives ( abbreviated ) are word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), mean ...
,
possessive determinerPossessive determiners (from la, possessivus, translit=; grc, κτητικός / ktētikós - en. ktetic Lallu) are determiners A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language ca ...
s, and
quantifiers Quantifier may refer to: * Quantifier (linguistics), an indicator of quantity * Quantifier (logic) * Quantification (science) See also

*Quantification (disambiguation) {{disambiguation ...
. In linguistic
interlinear glossing In linguistics and pedagogy, an interlinear gloss is a gloss (annotation), gloss (series of brief explanations, such as definitions or pronunciations) placed between lines, such as between a line of original text and its translation into another la ...
, articles are
abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word ''abbrevia ...
as .


Types of articles


Definite article

A definite article is an article that marks a definite noun phrase. Definite articles such as English ''
the ''The'' () is a grammatical article in English, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners, readers, or speakers. It is the definite article in English. ''The'' is the m ...

the
'' are used to refer to a particular member of a group or class. It may be something that the speaker has already mentioned or it may be otherwise something uniquely specified. For example, Sentence 1 uses the definite article and thus expresses a request for a particular book. In contrast, Sentence 2 uses an indefinite article and thus conveys that the speaker would be satisfied with any book. # Give me ''the'' book. # Give me ''a'' book. The definite article can also be used in English to indicate a specific class among other classes: : ''The cabbage white butterfly lays its eggs on members of the'' Brassica ''genus.'' However, recent developments show that definite articles are morphological elements linked to certain noun types due to
lexicalization In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most language ...
. Under this point of view, definiteness does not play a role in the selection of a definite article more than the lexical entry attached to the article.


Indefinite article

An indefinite article is an article that marks an indefinite noun phrase. Indefinite articles are those such as English "some" or "a", which do not refer to a specific identifiable entity. Indefinites are commonly used to introduce a new discourse referent which can be referred back to in subsequent discussion: # A monster ate a cookie. His name is Cookie Monster. Indefinites can also be used to generalize over entities who have some property in common: # A cookie is a wonderful thing to eat. Indefinites can also be used to refer to specific entities whose precise identity is unknown or unimportant. # A monster must have broken into my house last night and eaten all my cookies. # A friend of mine told me that happens frequently to people who live on Sesame Street. Indefinites also have predicative uses: # Leaving my door unlocked was a bad decision. Indefinite noun phrases are widely studied within linguistics, in particular because of their ability to take exceptional scope.


Proper article

A proper article indicates that its noun is proper, and refers to a unique entity. It may be the name of a person, the name of a place, the name of a planet, etc. The
Māori language Māori (), also known as ('the language'), is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people The Māori (, ) are the of mainland (). Māori originated with settlers from East , who arrived in New Zealand in several waves ...
has the proper article ''a'', which is used for personal nouns; so, "a Pita" means "Peter". In Māori, when the personal nouns have the definite or indefinite article as an important part of it, both articles are present; for example, the phrase "a Te Rauparaha", which contains both the proper article ''a'' and the definite article ''Te'' refers to the person name
Te Rauparaha Te Rauparaha (1760s – 27 November 1849) was a Māori rangatira (chief) and war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe who took a leading part in the Musket Wars The Musket Wars were a series of as many as 3,000 battles and raids fought throughout ...

Te Rauparaha
. The definite article is sometimes also used with proper names, which are already specified by definition (there ''is'' just one of them). For example: ''the Amazon, the Hebrides''. In these cases, the definite article may be considered superfluous. Its presence can be accounted for by the assumption that they are shorthand for a longer phrase in which the name is a specifier, i.e. ''the Amazon River'', ''the Hebridean Islands''. Where the nouns in such longer phrases cannot be omitted, the definite article is universally kept: ''the United States'', ''the People's Republic of China''. This distinction can sometimes become a political matter: the former usage ''the Ukraine'' stressed the word's Russian meaning of "borderlands"; as
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
became a fully independent state following the
collapse of the Soviet Union The dissolution of the Soviet Union, also negatively connoted as rus, Разва́л Сове́тского Сою́за, r=Razvál Sovétskovo Sojúza, ''Ruining of the Soviet Union''. (1988–1991) was the process of internal balkanization, ...
, it requested that formal mentions of its name omit the article. Similar shifts in usage have occurred in the names of
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān), officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It borders the countries of Central African Republ ...

Sudan
and both
Congo (Brazzaville) The Republic of the Congo ( french: République du Congo, mkw, Repubilika ya Kôngo), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa ...
and
Congo (Kinshasa) The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ( french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC) ), also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo (french: RD Congo), the DROC, or simply either Congo or the Congo, and historically Zaire Zaire () ...

Congo (Kinshasa)
; a move in the other direction occurred with
The Gambia The Gambia (), officially the Republic of The Gambia, is a country in West Africa. It is the smallest country within mainland AfricaHoare, Ben. (2002) ''The Kingfisher A-Z Encyclopedia'', Kingfisher Publications. p. 11. . and is surrounded by ...
. In certain languages, such as French and Italian, definite articles are used with all or most names of countries: ''la France/le Canada/l'Allemagne, l'Italia/la Spagna/il Brasile''. Some languages also use definite articles with
personal name A personal name, or full name, in onomastic Onomastics or onomatology is the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names. An ''wikt:orthonym, orthonym'' is the proper name of the object in question, the object of onomastic study. ...
s. For example, such use is standard in
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
(''a Maria'', literally: "the Maria"), in
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
(η Μαρία, ο Γιώργος, ο Δούναβης, η Παρασκευή) and in
Catalan Catalan may refer to: Catalonia From, or related to Catalonia: * Catalan language, a Romance language * Catalans, an ethnic group formed by the people from, or with origins in, Catalonia * Països Catalans, territories where Catalan is spoken * C ...
(la Núria, el/en Oriol). It can also occur colloquially or dialectally in
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
,
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
,
French
French
,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
and other languages. In
Hungary Hungary ( hu, Magyarország ) is a in . Spanning of the , it is bordered by to the north, to the northeast, to the east and southeast, to the south, and to the southwest and to the west. Hungary has a population of 10 million, mostl ...

Hungary
, the use of definite articles with personal names is considered to be a Germanism. This usage can appear in American English for particular nicknames. One prominent example occurs in the case of former United States President
Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective reci ...

Donald Trump
, who is also sometimes informally called "The Donald" in speech and in print media. Another is President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the and of the . The president directs the of ...

Ronald Reagan
's most common nickname, "The Gipper", which is still used today in reference to him.


Partitive article

A partitive article is a type of article, sometimes viewed as a type of indefinite article, used with a
mass noun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
such as ''water'', to indicate a non-specific quantity of it. Partitive articles are a class of
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
; they are used in and
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
in addition to definite and indefinite articles. (In
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
and
Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
, the partitive is indicated by inflection.) The nearest equivalent in English is ''some'', although it is classified as a
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
, and English uses it less than French uses ''de''. : French: ''Veux-tu du café ?'' : ''Do you want (some) coffee?'' :For more information, see the article on the French partitive article.
Haida Haida may refer to: Places * Haida, an old name for Nový Bor * Haida Gwaii, meaning "Islands of the People", formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands * Haida Islands, a different archipelago near Bella Bella, British Columbia Ships * , a 190 ...
has a partitive article (suffixed ''-gyaa'') referring to "part of something or... to one or more objects of a given group or category," e.g., ''tluugyaa uu hal tlaahlaang'' "he is making a boat (a member of the category of boats)."


Negative article

A negative article specifies ''none'' of its noun, and can thus be regarded as neither definite nor indefinite. On the other hand, some consider such a word to be a simple
determiner A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...
rather than an article. In English, this function is fulfilled by ''no'', which can appear before a singular or plural noun: : ''No man has been on this island.'' : ''No dogs are allowed here.'' : ''No one is in the room.'' In
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, the negative article is, among other variations, ''kein'', in opposition to the indefinite article ''ein''. :''Ein Hund'' – a dog :''Kein Hund'' – no dog The equivalent in
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
is ''geen'': : ''een hond'' – a dog : ''geen hond'' – no dog


Zero article

The zero article is the absence of an article. In languages having a definite article, the lack of an article specifically indicates that the noun is indefinite. Linguists interested in
X-bar theory In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...

X-bar theory
causally link zero articles to nouns lacking a determiner. In English, the zero article rather than the indefinite is used with
plurals The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity greater than the default qua ...
and
mass noun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
s, although the word "some" can be used as an indefinite plural article. : ''Visitors end up walking in mud.''


Crosslinguistic variation

Articles are found in many
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
,
Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication u ...

Semitic languages
(only the definite article), and
Polynesian languages The Polynesian languages form a genealogical group of languages, itself part of the Oceanic Oceanic may refer to: *Of or relating to the ocean *Of or relating to Oceania **Oceanic climate **Oceanic languages **Oceanic person or people, also cal ...

Polynesian languages
; however, they are formally absent from many of the world's major languages including:
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
,
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...

Japanese
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
,
Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (1911–24), the government of Mongolia, 1911–1919 and 1921–1924 * Mongolian language * Mongolian alphabet * Mongo ...

Mongolian
, many
Turkic languages The Turkic languages are a language family of at least 35 documented languages, spoken by the Turkic peoples of Eurasia from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe to Central Asia, East Asia, North Asia (Siberia), and Western Asia. The Turkic langu ...

Turkic languages
(incl.
Tatar The Tatars (; tt, , , , crh, tatarlar; otk, 𐱃𐱃𐰺, Tatar) is an umbrella term for different Turkic peoples, Turkic ethnic groups bearing the name "Tatar." Initially, the ethnonym ''Tatar'' possibly referred to the Tatar confederation ...
, Bashkir, Tuvan and Chuvash), many
Uralic languages The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning " ...

Uralic languages
(incl. and Saami languages),
Indonesian Indonesian is anything of, from, or related to Indonesia, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It may refer to: * Indonesians, citizens of Indonesia ** Native Indonesians, diverse groups of local inhabitants of the archipelago ** Indonesian ...

Indonesian
,
Hindi-Urdu Hindustani (; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida . ''M ...
,
Punjabi Panjābī (pʌnˈdʒɑːbi) (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) (پنجابی) Punjabi or Panjabi most often refers to: * Something of, from, or related to Punjab Punjab ( Gurmukhi: ; Shahmukhi: ; , ; , ; ; also romanised as Panjāb or Panj-Āb) is a ge ...
,
Tamil Tamil may refer to: * Tamils, an ethnic group native to India, Sri Lanka and some other parts of Asia **Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamil people native to Sri Lanka **Tamil Malaysians, Tamil people native to Malaysia * Tamil language, a Dravidian languages, ...

Tamil
, the
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sha ...

Baltic languages
, the majority of
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
, the
Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large family of languages In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or o ...
(incl.
Swahili Swahili may refer to: * Swahili language, a Bantu language official in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and widely spoken in the African Great Lakes * Swahili people, an ethnic group in East Africa * Swahili culture, the culture of the Swahili people * Sw ...
) and
Yoruba Yoruba may refer to: * Yoruba people The Yoruba people () are a Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the U ...
. In some languages that do have articles, such as some
North Caucasian languages The North Caucasian languages, sometimes called simply Caucasic, is a proposed language family consisting of a pair of well established Language family, language families spoken in the Caucasus, predominantly in North Caucasus, the north, consist ...
, the use of articles is optional; however, in others like English and German it is mandatory in all cases. Linguists believe the common ancestor of the
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
,
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
, did not have articles. Most of the languages in this family do not have definite or indefinite articles: there is no article in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
or
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
, nor in some modern Indo-European languages, such as the families of
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavs, Slavic peoples or their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic language, Proto- ...

Slavic languages
(except for
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
and
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
, which are rather distinctive among the Slavic languages in their grammar, and some Northern Russian dialects),
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sha ...

Baltic languages
and many
Indo-Aryan languages The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages form a major language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages h ...
. Although
Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
had a definite article (which has survived into
Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' ...
and which bears strong functional resemblance to the German definite article, which it is related to), the earlier
Homeric Greek Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic Greek, Ionic and Aeolic Greek, Aeolic, with a fe ...
used this article largely as a pronoun or demonstrative, whereas the earliest known form of Greek known as
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively ...
did not have any articles. Articles developed independently in several language families. Not all languages have both definite and indefinite articles, and some languages have different types of definite and indefinite articles to distinguish finer shades of meaning: for example, and
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
have a partitive article used for indefinite
mass noun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
s, whereas
Colognian Colognian or Kölsch (; natively ''Kölsch Platt'') is a small set of very closely related dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways t ...
has two distinct sets of definite articles indicating focus and uniqueness, and
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
uses definite articles in a demonstrative sense, with a tripartite distinction (proximal, medial, distal) based on distance from the speaker or interlocutor. The words ''this'' and ''that'' (and their plurals, ''these'' and ''those'') can be understood in English as, ultimately, forms of the definite article ''the'' (whose declension in Old English included ''thaes'', an ancestral form of this/that and these/those). In many languages, the form of the article may vary according to the
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...
,
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...
, or
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridge (firearms), cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or ...
of its noun. In some languages the article may be the only indication of the case. Many languages do not use articles at all, and may use other ways of indicating old versus new information, such as
topic–comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or Focus (linguistics), focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure ...
constructions.


Tables

The following examples show articles which are always suffixed to the noun: *
Albanian Albanian may refer to: *Pertaining to Albania in Southeast Europe; in particular: **Albanians, an ethnic group native to the Balkans **Albanian language **Albanian culture **Demographics of Albania, includes other ethnic groups within the country ...

Albanian
: ''zog'', a bird; ''zogu'', the bird *
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
: שלם (shalam), peace; שלמא (shalma), the peace ** Note: Aramaic is written from right to left, so an
Aleph Aleph (or alef or alif, transliterated ʾ) is the first letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, sig ...

Aleph
is added to the end of the word. ם becomes מ when it is not the final letter. * Assamese: "কিতাপ (kitap)", book; "কিতাপখন (kitapkhôn)" : "The book" *
Bengali Bengali or Bengalee, or Bengalese may refer to: *something of, from, or related to Bengal, a large region in South Asia * Bengalis, an ethnic and linguistic group of the region * Bengali language, the language they speak ** Bengali alphabet, the wr ...
: "Bôi", book; "Bôiti/Bôita/Bôikhana" : "The Book" *
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
: стол ''stol'', chair; столът ''stolǎt'', the chair ( subject); стола ''stola'', the chair (
object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at any particular time or pl ...
) *
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
: ''hus'', house; ''huset'', the house; if there is an adjective: ''det gamle hus'', the old house *
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
: ''hestur'', horse; ''hesturinn'', the horse *
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
: стол ''stol'', chair; столот ''stolot'', the chair; столов ''stolov'', this chair; столон ''stolon'', that chair *
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
: ''sib'', apple. (The Persian language does not have definite articles. It has one indefinite article 'yek' that means one. In Persian if a noun is not indefinite, it is a definite noun. "Sib e' man، means my apple. Here 'e' is like 'of' in English; an so literally "Sib e man" means the apple of mine.) *
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Euro ...
: ''drum'', road; ''drum''u''l'', the road (the article is just "l", "u" is a "connection
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables ...

vowel
" ro, vocală de legătură) *
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
and
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
: ''hus'', house; ''huset'', the house; if there is an adjective: ''det gamle (N)/gamla (S) huset'', the old house Examples of prefixed definite articles: * he, ילד, transcribed as ''yeled'', a boy; , transcribed as , the boy * mt, ktieb, a book; , the book; mt, għotja, a donation; , the donation; mt, ċavetta, a key; , the key; mt, dar, a house; , the house; mt, nemla, an ant; , the ant; mt, ras, a head; , the head; mt, sodda, a bed; , the bed; mt, tuffieħa, an apple; , the apple; mt, xahar, a month; , the month; mt, zunnarija, a carrot; , the carrot; mt, żmien, a time; , the time A different way, limited to the definite article, is used by Latvian and
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
. The noun does not change but the adjective can be defined or undefined. In Latvian: ''galds'', a table / the table; ''balts galds'', a white table; ''baltais galds'', the white table. In Lithuanian: ''stalas'', a table / the table; ''baltas stalas'', a white table; ''baltasis stalas'', the white table. Languages in the above table written in ''italics'' are
constructed languages A constructed language (sometimes called a conlang) is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages h ...
and are not natural, that is to say that they have been purposefully invented by an individual (or group of individuals) with some purpose in mind. They do, however, all belong to language families themselves.
Esperanto Esperanto ( or ) is the world's most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language An international auxiliary language (sometimes abbreviated as IAL or auxlang) is a meant for communication between people from different nations ...
is derived from European languages and therefore all of its roots are found in
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
and cognates can be found in real-world languages like French, German, Italian and English.
Interlingua Interlingua (; ISO 639 ISO 639 is a set of standards by the International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technica ...
is also based on European languages but with its main source being that of Italic descendant languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, with German and Russian being secondary sources, with words from further afield (but internationally known and often borrowed) contributing to the language's vocabulary (such as words taken from Japanese, Arabic and Finnish). The result is a supposedly easy-to-learn language for the world. As well as these "auxiliary" languages the list contains two more:
Quenya Quenya ()Tolkien wrote in his "Outline of Phonology" (in ' 19, p. 74) dedicated to the phonology of Quenya: is "a sound as in English ''new''". In Quenya is a combination of consonants, ibidem., p. 81. is a , one of those for the in his fi ...

Quenya
and
Sindarin Sindarin is one of the fictional languages devised by J. R. R. Tolkien for use in his fantasy stories set in Arda, primarily in Middle-earth Middle-earth is the fictional setting of much of the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien's legendar ...

Sindarin
; these two languages were created by Professor Tolkien and used in his fictional works. They are not based on any real-world language family (as are Esperanto and Interlingua), but do share a common history with roots in
Common Eldarin Common Eldarin, or simply Eldarin, is a constructed language A constructed language (sometimes called a conlang) is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestur ...
.


Tokelauan

When using a definite article in
Tokelauan language Tokelauan is a Polynesian language spoken in Tokelau and on Swains Island (or Olohega) in American Samoa. It is closely related to Tuvaluan and is related to Samoan and other Polynesian languages. Tokelauan has a co-official status with Engli ...
, unlike in some languages like English, if the speaker is speaking of an item, they need not to have referred to it previously as long as the item is specific. This is also true when it comes to the reference of a specific person. So, although the definite article used to describe a noun in the Tokelauan language is ''te'', it can also translate to the indefinite article in languages that requires the item being spoken of to have been referenced prior. When translating to English, ''te'' could translate to the English definite article ''the'', or it could also translate to the English indefinite article ''a''. An example of how the definite article ''te'' can be used as an interchangeable definite or indefinite article in the Tokelauan language would be the sentence “''Kua hau te tino''”. In the English language, this could be translated as “A man has arrived” or “The man has arrived” where using ''te'' as the article in this sentence can represent any man or a particular man. The word ''he'', which is the indefinite article in Tokelauan, is used to describe ‘any such item’. The word ''he'' is used in negative statements because that is where it is most often found, alongside its great use in interrogative statements. Though this is something to make note of, ''he'' is not used in just in negative statements and questions alone. Although these two types of statements are where ''he'' occurs the most, it is also used in other statements as well. An example of the use of ''he'' as an indefinite article is “''Vili ake oi k'aumai he toki'' ”, where ‘''he toki'' ’ mean ‘an axe’. The use of ''he'' and ''te'' in Tokelauan are reserved for when describing a singular noun. However, when describing a plural noun, different articles are used. For plural definite nouns, rather than ''te'', the article ''nā'' is used. ‘''Vili ake oi k'aumai nā nofoa''’ in Tokelauan would translate to “Do run and bring me the chairs” in English. There are some special cases in which instead of using ''nā'', plural definite nouns have no article before them. The absence of an article is represented by ''0''. One way that it is usually used is if a large amount or a specific class of things are being described. Occasionally, such as if one was describing an entire class of things in a nonspecific fashion, the singular definite noun ''te'' would is used. In English, ‘''Ko te povi e kai mutia''’ means “Cows eat grass”. Because this is a general statement about cows, ''te'' is used instead of ''nā''. The ''ko'' serves as a preposition to the “''te''” The article ''ni'' is used for describing a plural indefinite noun. ‘''E i ei ni tuhi?''’ translates to “Are there any books?”


Historical development

Articles often develop by specialization of
adjectives In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Itali ...
or
determiners A determiner, also called determinative ( abbreviated ), is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practic ...

determiners
. Their development is often a sign of languages becoming more analytic instead of
syntheticA synthetic is an artificial material produced by organic chemistry, organic chemical synthesis. Synthetic may also refer to: In the sense of both "combination" and "artificial" * Synthetic chemical or synthetic compress, produced by the process ...
, perhaps combined with the loss of
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical ob ...
as in English, Romance languages, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Torlakian.
Joseph Greenberg Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915 – May 7, 2001) was an American linguistics, linguist, known mainly for his work concerning linguistic typology and the genetic relationship (linguistics), genetic classification of languages. Life Early ...
in Universals of Human Language describes "the cycle of the definite article": Definite articles (Stage I) evolve from demonstratives, and in turn can become generic articles (Stage II) that may be used in both definite and indefinite contexts, and later merely noun markers (Stage III) that are part of nouns other than proper names and more recent borrowings. Eventually articles may evolve anew from demonstratives.


Definite articles

Definite articles typically arise from
demonstrative Demonstratives (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning ...
s meaning ''that''. For example, the definite articles in most
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of w ...

Romance languages
—e.g., ''el'', ''il'', ''le'', ''la'', ''lo'' — derive from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
demonstratives ''ille'' (masculine), ''illa'' (feminine) and ''illud'' (neuter). The
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
definite article ''
the ''The'' () is a grammatical article in English, denoting persons or things already mentioned, under discussion, implied or otherwise presumed familiar to listeners, readers, or speakers. It is the definite article in English. ''The'' is the m ...
'', written ''þe'' in
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
, derives from an
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
demonstrative, which, according to
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...
, was written ''se'' (masculine), ''seo'' (feminine) (''þe'' and ''þeo'' in the Northumbrian dialect), or ''þæt'' (neuter). The neuter form ''þæt'' also gave rise to the modern demonstrative ''that''. The ''ye'' occasionally seen in pseudo-archaic usage such as "
Ye Olde "Ye olde" is a pseudo–Early Modern English Early Modern English or Early New English (sometimes abbreviated EModE, EMnE, or EME) is the stage of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of ...
Englishe Tea Shoppe" is actually a form of ''þe'', where the letter
thorn Thorne or Thorns may refer to: Botany * Thorns, spines, and prickles, sharp structures on plants * Thorn, quickthorn or common hawthorn (''Crataegus monogyna'') Places * Thorn, Netherlands * Thorn, German name of Toruń, Poland * Thorn, Bedfor ...
(''þ'') came to be written as a ''y''. Multiple demonstratives can give rise to multiple definite articles.
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
, for example, in which the articles are suffixed, has ''столот'' (''stolot''), the chair; ''столов'' (''stolov''), this chair; and ''столон'' (''stolon''), that chair. These derive from the
Proto-Slavic Proto-Slavic is the unattested, reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for ...
demonstratives '' *tъ'' "this, that", '' *ovъ'' "this here" and '' *onъ'' "that over there, yonder" respectively.
Colognian Colognian or Kölsch (; natively ''Kölsch Platt'') is a small set of very closely related dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways t ...
prepositions articles such as in ''dat Auto'', or ''et Auto'', the car; the first being specifically selected, focused, newly introduced, while the latter is not selected, unfocused, already known, general, or generic. Standard Basque language, Basque distinguishes between proximal and distal definite articles in the plural (dialectally, a proximal singular and an additional medial grade may also be present). The Basque distal form (with infix ''-a-'', etymologically a suffixed and phonetically reduced form of the distal demonstrative ''har-/hai-'') functions as the default definite article, whereas the proximal form (with infix ''-o-'', derived from the proximal demonstrative ''hau-/hon-'') is markedness#Marked and unmarked word pairs, marked and indicates some kind of (spatial or otherwise) close relationship between the speaker and the referent (e.g., it may imply that the speaker is included in the referent): ''etxeak'' ("the houses") vs. ''etxeok'' ("these houses [of ours]"), ''euskaldunak'' ("the Basque speakers") vs. ''euskaldunok'' ("we, the Basque speakers"). Speakers of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, a modern Aramaic language that lacks a definite article, may at times use demonstratives ''aha'' and ''aya'' (feminine) or ''awa'' (masculine) – which translate to "this" and "that", respectively – to give the sense of "the".Solomon, Zomaya S. (1997). ''Functional and other exotic sentences in Assyrian Aramaic'', Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, XI/2:44-69.


Indefinite articles

Indefinite articles typically arise from adjectives meaning ''one''. For example, the indefinite articles in the
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of w ...

Romance languages
—e.g., ''un'', ''una'', ''une''—derive from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
adjective ''unus''. Partitive articles, however, derive from Vulgar Latin ''de illo'', meaning ''(some) of the''. The
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
indefinite article ''English articles, an'' is derived from the same root as ''one''. The ''-n'' came to be dropped before consonants, giving rise to the shortened form ''a''. The existence of both forms has led to many cases of juncture loss, for example transforming the original ''a napron'' into the modern ''an apron''. The
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
indefinite article is ''yek'', meaning one.


See also

* English articles * Al- (definite article in Arabic) * Definiteness * Definite description * False title


References


External links


"The Definite Article, 'The': The Most Frequently Used Word in World's Englishes"
* {{Authority control Grammar Parts of speech