Definite Articles

by Matthew S. Dryer

5 Responses to “Definite Articles”

  1. Stefan Schumacher Says:

    Basque should definitely (!) be placed under the category “definite affix”. The relevant sentences are to be found in Saltarelli et al. p.198, Section “The number marker is usually -0 for indefinite NPs, -a for definite singular NPs, -ak for definite plural absolutive NPs, and -e for definite plural ergative NPs. For inanimate locative NPs, the indefinite and definite plural forms are marked by the suffix -ta-”.
    Anyway, this should suffice to explain that it is impossible to speak of an “article word”, and consequently, Basque must be given the category “article affix”.

  2. Martin Haspelmath Says:

    Please note the following passage in the chapter text:

    “In some languages, the definite marker is a clitic which can appear on nouns or on postnominal modifiers, most commonly on the final word in the noun phrase. Such definite clitics are not treated here as definite affixes, but as definite words, falling into one of the first two types.”

    So the author classifies the Basque article as a clitic because it is not always attached to the noun. This may not be in line with the traditional (spelling-based) view of the Basque article, but it is internally consistent.

  3. Henry Davis Says:

    Nisga’a and Gitksan are mutually intelligible, and form part of an Interior Tsimshianic dialect continuum. They have identical nominal semantics, yet they are given different values on the map here! In fact, the Nisga’a value is correct: articles in IT are unspecified for (in)definiteness, and there is no definite affix (the Gitksan value must be a misreading of Rigsby’s grammar).

    Henry Davis

  4. Matthew Dryer Says:

    What Henry Davis says is consistent with how I have Gitksan coded in my database. The current coding is due to a programming error.

  5. Paul Unger Says:

    I’m curious about the inclusion of Gela (Southeast Solomonic) in the group of languages with a definite word distinct from demontrative. Crowley (1985:159) cites Codrington, who demonstrates that Gela /na/ has “no reference to focus or definiteness”. Crowley (2002:527-28) reverses this observation, claiming that Gela /na/ is a definite article, though half of his examples demonstrate ‘incorporation’ (i.e., no ‘article’ before the post-verb noun). More convincing are Rijkhoff’s (2002:95, 185 n. 21) observations re. noun phrase markers in Oceanic languages–that they do not mark (in)definiteness. This is certainly the case in Doku (aka Lengo), Gela’s counterpart in the Gela-Guadalcanal branch of Southeast Solomonic.

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