Article: Grammatical meaning

July 14th, 20125:06 am


Article: Grammatical meaning

The article presents many difficulties to linguists. The problem of its grammatical meaning and its place in the language system is one of the most complicated in English grammar. Firstly, it is not quite clear whether the article should be treated as a separate word and what exactly its relation to the noun is. Secondly, the number of articles spurs debates among linguists. Thirdly, if the article is classified as a word, it is necessary to clarify whether it constitutes a specific part of speech. All these questions still spur heated debates among grammarians.

There are two points of view as to the first question. According to some researchers, the article is a specific morpheme; consequently, the article is regarded as similar to auxiliary verbs used in analytical verb forms. The arguments in favour of this point of view are as follows: the article is a mor­phological marker of the noun; it has no lexical meaning.

The opponents of this viewpoint believe that these arguments are not sufficiently convincing: though the main formal function of the article is indeed to be a morphological marker of the noun, still the article and the noun do not comprise an inseparable unit (compare, for instance, the indivisibility of analytical verb forms). It is first of all a determiner of the noun, i.e. between the article and the noun there is a syntactic relation unthinkable for components of an analytical form. The article may be treated as a sepa­rate word due to its possibility of distant position, which is regarded as its main formal feature, though some linguists, add that the article is a means of analytical morphology, somewhat analogous to a morpheme.

To back up the status of the article as a word, linguists point out that the article may be replaced by a pronoun: the definite article corresponds to the demonstrative pronouns this, that, the indefinite article – to the indefinite pronoun some. Therefore, considering the article as a morpheme would lead to considering combinations of the noun with other determiners (e.g. any, my, this, every) to be analytical forms.

Some linguists who grant the article the “word status” suppose that, functionally, the article is identical to the adjectival pronoun. As a result, the combination “atticle+noun” is equaled to attributive word combinations. However, this approach to the “article+noun” combination is hardly justi­fied, since the article lacks its independent lexical meaning, and consequent­ly has no independent syntactic position. Appearing in the sentence without a noun is impossible for the article, which proves that the article cannot be treated as equivalent to pronouns and other determiners.

Article: Grammatical meaning – Part 2