XI. Article, its role and function. The number of articles in English
Article is a determining unit accompanying the noun in communicative collocation. In contrast to determiners such as –this, any, some – articles 1/. define nouns in the most general way, without relation to other object or phenomena; 2/. the cases of non-use of the article are subject to definite rules, as the use of articles.
The status of article in English is difficult to define. Whether it is a purely auxiliary element of an analytical form of noun, showing the category of determination, or it is a separate word, a lexical unit of a class of articles, group of determiners. Some grammarians see there are grammatical relations between the article and the noun it determines.
Another ambiguity is the number of articles. It appears that there function three articles: definite, indefinite and the absence of the article.
- The definite article expresses the identification or individualization of the noun. It can be tested by substitution of the article by a demonstrative determiner: “Look at the apple-tree!” – “Look at this apple-tree!” The justification of this test can be proved by a counter-test, a replacement of the definite article by the indefinite, or the absence of article.
- The indefinite article refers to the object denoted by the noun of a certain class of similar objects. For testing the indefinite article can be replaced by constructions “a certain”, “kind of”, “sort of”: “We passed a water-mill. – We passed a certain water-mill”. (not a wind-mill).
- As for various uses of nouns without articles, from the semantic point of view they can be divided into two types: stylistic omission in newspaper articles, messages, where the articles can be easily restored: “Red Cross supply food to refugees in Palestinian camp.” – “The Red Cross supply (!) food to the refugees in a Palestinian camp.” And the semantic absence of article for the noun in the abstract sense, expressing - the most general idea of the object. It can be tested by inserting a generalizing modifier: in general, in the broadest sense. “Law (in general) begins with the beginning of human society (in general). – It can also be used with uncountable noun with the meaning of relative and absolute generalization: “John laughed with great bitterness (that sort of bitterness – relative generalization)”. “The subject of health (in general – absolute generalization) was carefully avoided by everybody”. – The absence of the article before the countable noun in the plural can also have the meaning of relative and absolute generalization: “Herrod’s sell luxury clothes (these kinds of clothes, relative generalization)”. “Plants (in general, absolute generalization) can generate carbohydrates (in general).”
- There can be idiomatic use of any of the articles: “on fire, in debt, take place, in a hurry, have a look, out of the common, under the circumstances”.
The basic principle of differentiation between the uses of articles is in the type of information the article-noun combination conveys. The definite article indicates the type of the information, presented in the sentence as already known, namely, the starting point of the communication, called “theme”, in contrast to this, the indefinite article or the meaningful absence of the article introduce the central communicative part of the sentence, rendering the immediate informative data to be conveyed from the speaker to the listener, called “rheme”. Thus, the typical syntactic position of the noun modified by the definite article is the thematic subject, while the typical position of the noun, modified by the in.a or abs.a is the rhematic predicative. : “The day (subject) was drawing to (!) a close.” How to handle the (!) situation was a big question (predicative). In objects and attributes the articles reflect the same situational functions. “The farmers on the organic farm produce meat and vegetables” (the subject and the predicative group). “The door opened and the young man came in” – “The door opened and a young man came in – The person who came in was a young man”.
As a grammatical category, a.d. is characterized by two sets of binary oppositions. The first set is def.a vs indef. and abs.a (weak member)…
.: “It was a beautiful summer day for the wedding, a muddy earth but a bright sky”. The transponized character of the indefinite determination is revealed in its fulfilling two functions – one of them is primary – one of the types of the earth and the sky, while its secondary function consists in determining a unique object. Due to the transpositional use of the article the analyzed context becomes stylistically marked.
The data obtained show that the English noun distinguishes the category of determination, expressed by the article paradigm of 3 grammatical forms for the whole system of common nouns being transpositionally outstretched also into the system of proper nouns :”She is the Bronte, who wrote Jane Eyre”.
The determiners (this, his, some, another) used with nouns in the absence of the article expose the essential article meanings for their semantic structure.