World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Definiteness

Article Id: WHEBN0003015619
Reproduction Date:

Title: Definiteness  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Norwegian language, Article (grammar), Hindustani grammar, Amharic, Macedonian grammar
Collection: Grammatical Categories
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Definiteness

In linguistics, definiteness is a semantic feature of noun phrases (NPs), distinguishing between referents/entities that are identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases). In English, for example, definite noun phrases preclude asking "which one?"

There is considerable variation in the expression of definiteness across languages and some languages do not express it at all. For example, in English definiteness is usually marked by the selection of determiner. Certain determiners, such as a/an, many, any, either, and some typically mark an NP as indefinite. Others, including the, this, every, and both mark the NP as definite.[1] In some other languages, the marker is a clitic that attaches phonologically to the noun (and often to modifying adjectives), e.g. the Hebrew definite article ha- or the Arabic definite article al-. In yet other languages, definiteness is indicated by affixes on the noun or on modifying adjectives, much like the expression of grammatical number and grammatical case. In these languages, the inflections indicating definiteness may be quite complex. In the Germanic languages and Balto-Slavic languages, for example (as still in modern German and Lithuanian), there are two paradigms for adjectives, one used in definite noun phrases and the other used in indefinite noun phrases. In some languages, e.g. Hungarian, definiteness is marked on the verb.

Contents

  • Use in different languages 1
  • Grammatical state 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Use in different languages

Examples are:

  • Phrasal clitic: as in Basque: Cf. emakume ("woman"), (woman-ART: "the woman"), (woman beautiful-ART: "the beautiful woman"); Romanian: ("man"), (man-ART: "the man"), (man-ART good: "the good man") or (good-ART man: "the good man")
  • Noun affix: as in Albanian: ("boy"), (man-ART: "the boy"); (man-ART elder: "the elder son"), ("girl"), (man-ART: "the girl"); (man-ART pretty: "the pretty girl")
  • Prefix on both noun and adjective: Arabic (al-kitāb al-kabīr) with two instances of al- (DEF-book-DEF-big, literally, "the book the big")
  • Distinct verbal forms: as in Hungarian: (read-1sg.pres.INDEF a book-ACC.sg: "I read a book") versus (read-1sg.pres.DEF the book-ACC.sg: "I read the book")

Germanic, Romance, Celtic, Semitic, and auxiliary languages generally have a definite article, sometimes used as a postposition. Many other languages do not. Some examples are Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, and modern Slavic languages except Bulgarian and Macedonian. When necessary, languages of this kind may indicate definiteness by other means such as Demonstratives.

It is common for definiteness to interact with the marking of case in certain syntactic contexts. In many languages direct objects (DOs) receive distinctive marking only if they are definite. For example, in Turkish, the DO in the sentence (meaning "I saw the men") is marked with the suffix (indicating definiteness). The absence of the suffix means that the DO is indefinite ("I saw men").

In Serbo-Croatian (and in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian), and to a lesser extent in Slovene, definiteness can be expressed morphologically on prenominal adjectives.[2] The short form of the adjective is interpreted as indefinite, while the long form is definite and/or specific:

  • short (indefinite): Serbo-Croatian "a new city"; Lithuanian "a white book"
  • long (definite): "the new city, a certain new city"; "the white book, a certain white book"

In Japanese, a language which indicates noun functions with postpositions, the topic marker (wa) may include definiteness. For example, (uma wa) can mean "the horse", while (uma ga) can mean "a horse".

In some languages, the definiteness of the object affects the transitivity of the verb. In the absence of peculiar specificity marking, it also tends to affect the telicity of mono-occasional predications.

Grammatical state

The morphological category corresponding to definiteness in the Semitic languages is known as grammatical state. State is a property of the inflection of nouns, much like number and case, and adjectives must agree in state with their associated noun, just like they agree in number, gender and case. The Semitic languages have three values for grammatical state: indefinite, definite and construct. Indefinite and definite state function much as elsewhere. The construct state is specifically used of a definite noun that is modified by another noun in a genitive construction. Typically, no other element can intervene between construct-state noun and modifying genitival noun, and the two often function as a phonological unit. In Arabic, for example, the feminine ending of nouns in the construct state has a special sandhi form .

See also

References

  1. ^
  2. ^
  • Hawkins, J.A. (1978) Definiteness and indefiniteness: a study in reference and grammaticality prediction. London:Croom Helm.
  • Lyons, Christopher (1999) Definiteness. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-511-03721-4.
  • Definite article from Glottopedia

External links

  • http://www.smg.surrey.ac.uk/features/morphosyntactic/definiteness/ doi 10.15126/SMG.18/1.06
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.