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Encyclopedia > Definiteness

In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases). Grammar is the study of rules governing the use of language. ... In linguistics, a noun phrase is a phrase whose Head is a noun. ...

There is considerable variation in the expression of definiteness across languages: some languages use a definite article (which can be a free form, a phrasal clitic, or an affix on the noun) to mark a definite noun phrase. Examples are: An article is a word that is next to a noun or any word that modifies a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. ... In linguistics, a clitic is an element that has some of the properties of an independent word and some more typical of a bound morpheme. ... Look up affix in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

  • Free form: English the boy.
  • Phrasal clitic: as in Basque: Cf. emakume ("woman"), emakume-a (woman-ART: "the woman"), emakume ederr-a (woman beautiful-ART: "the beautiful woman")
  • Noun affix: as in Romanian: om ("man"), om-ul (man-ART: "the man"); om-ul bun (man-ART good: "the good man")

In contrast, the great majority of languages do not have a definite article. Some examples are Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, and all the Slavic languages except Bulgarian and Macedonian. When necessary, languages of this kind may indicate definiteness by other means such as demonstratives. Basque (native name: Euskara) is the language spoken by the Basque people who inhabit the Pyrenees in North-Central Spain and the adjoining region of South-Western France. ...  Countries where a West Slavic language is the national language  Countries where an East Slavic language is the national language  Countries where a South Slavic language is the national language The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages), a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup... Demonstratives are words that indicate which objects a sentence is referring to. ...

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 adamları gördüm (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 linguistics, declension is a feature of inflected languages: generally, the alteration of a noun to indicate its grammatical role. ... The accusative case of a noun is, generally, the case used to mark the direct object of a verb. ...

In some languages (such as Croatian) adjectives have indefinite and definite forrm, the later used when the adjective identifies the entity. For example, in Moj konj je crn ("My horse is black") crn is in indefinite form, while in Udario me crni konj ("The black horse kicked me") the definite form crni is used.

In Japanese, a language which indicates noun functions with postpositions, the distinction between the topic marker (wa) and the subject marker (ga) includes definiteness. For example, "uma-ha" can mean "the horse", while "uma-ga" can mean "a horse".

See also

The status constructus or construct state is a noun form occurring in Semitic languages (such as Arabic and Hebrew) and in the extinct Egyptian language. ... An article is a word that is next to a noun or any word that modifies a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. ...


  • Hawkins, J.A. (1978) Definiteness and indefiniteness: a study in reference and grammaticality prediction. London:Croom Helm.
  • Lyons, Christopher (1999) Definiteness. Cambridge University Press.

  Results from FactBites:
Definition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2343 words)
A stipulative definition is the specification of a meaning adopted or assumed specifically for the purposes of argument or discussion in a given context.
A persuasive definition "is a type of definition in which a term is defined in such a way as to be an argument for a particular position (as opposed to a lexical definition, which aims to be neutral to all usages), and is deceptive in that it has the surface form of a dictionary definition."
"Definition" is a fixed, static form (a model; an appearance of something as distinguished from the substance of which it is made; something autonomous from its own representation) of some relation(s) that significantly increases the probability of realisation of an intended (premeditated) change of some phenomenon.
Definition of music - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3156 words)
This definition determines music according to the poetic and the neutral levels (it must be composed sonorities), or more aesthetically, 'the artful or pleasing organization of sound and silence', which determines music according to the esthesic.
This definition is widely held to from the late 19th century forward, which began to scientifically analyze the relationship between sound and perception.
This definition is influential in the cognitive sciences, which search to locate the regions of the brain responsible for parsing or remembering different aspects of musical experience.
  More results at FactBites »



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