Article: Grammatical meaning – Part 2

July 14th, 20125:06 am


Article: Grammatical meaning – Part 2

Article: Grammatical meaning – Part 1

Thus, the article should obviously be regarded as a phenomenon that can­not be fully referred either to morphology or to syntax. On the one hand, it is a part-of-speech marker of the noun, which makes it close to the morpheme. On the other hand, the article is a function-word that has no lexical mean­ing and does not have its independent syntactic function. Different points of view on the number of articles stem from the different interpretations of their linguistic status. Traditionally, two articles are recognized: the definite article the and the indefinite a(n). However, if the article is regarded as a morpheme, then the term “zero-morpheme” may be applied to cases when the noun is used without the article. As a result, linguists have worked out a theory of three forms of the article: zero-form, a-form and the-form:


                             Singular                                Plural

zero                       book                                       books

a-form                  a book                                      –

the-form              the book                                the books

Thus, if one regards the article as a morpheme, then one has to recognize the three-member system of the article. The notion of the zero-article would not result in any inconsistence, since the term “zero-morpheme” is widely used in linguistics to differentiate inflected word forms with uninflected ones.

The opponents of the three-member system, i.e. those who classify the article as a word, exclude the possibility of the notion “zero-article” since it is equivalent to “zero-word”, which is unacceptable. Within this approach, it is more consistent to characterize these cases as “absence of the article” and contrast them to cases when the article is used.

As to the third controversial issue, that is the part-of-speech status of the article, there is no unanimous viewpoint either. Some scientists, though treating the article as a word, do not consider it a part of speech. Sometimes the article is analyzed within some other part of speech (usually pronouns), which is the typical approach of British and American grammarians. Slavic linguists, as a rule, distinguish the article as a part of speech, since the article has a specific semantic, morphological and syntactic function.

As soon as we have elucidated the most important theoretical problems, let us turn to functions of the article. Like any other part of speech, the ar­ticle has its peculiar morphological, syntactic and semantic features. As to its grammatical meaning, the majority of authors believe that the category formed by the article is usually called the category of determination, or “definiteness” “indefiniteness”.

Morphologically, the article is the main determiner, or formal marker, of the noun. The article modifies the noun, though it may be separated from the noun by other modifiers.

Syntactically, the function of the article is to mark the left-hand bound­ary of a noun-group: the dress, the long silk dress, the lovely expensive long silk dress. The article may also indicate some anaphoric relation. The ana­phoric article is important in a coherent text, since it creates cohesion be­tween sentences:

Then she wound a splashy purple-and-black silk sash around her head. When she descended the stairs, the sash wafted out behind her like a bridal train. (Tyler)