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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

5 - Determiners

Summary

In this chapter, we will investigate the use of articles and demonstrative pronouns, as well as some other determiners across varieties of English. The relevant grammatical domain is often referred to as the ‘determiner system’ and is discussed in great detail in grammatical descriptions of standard English (see, for instance, Quirk et al. 1985: 253–81; Huddleston and Pullum 2002: 368–99). We will here be interested in special, non-standard determiner forms serving the functions of standard English determiners; standard determiners in non-standard functions; non-standard determiners in non-standard functions; and the overuse and underuse of determiners. In keeping with the general structure of the book, these findings will be interpreted against the backdrop of cross-linguistic observations and generalisations in this domain. Before discussing varieties of English and cross-linguistic data, let us first of all take a look at some important linguistic facts of this domain.

Overview

Determiners form a heterogeneous group comprising word classes such as articles, demonstratives, and quantifiers. Examples from (standard) English include the, a, this, that, some, many, few, and various others. What these words and word classes have in common is that they serve as modifiers of nouns and noun phrases, but, unlike adjectives, they are grammatical rather than lexical elements. This statement is based on the observation that these expressions form closed paradigms containing only a handful of elements, whereas the class of adjectives is open and forms a large set. Semantically, determiners modify the referential properties of the relevant noun phrases, again unlike adjectives, whose main function consists in the modification of certain qualitative aspects of the referents concerned. In what follows, we will take a more detailed look at the individual determiner classes.

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Further reading
Abbott, Barbara. 2006. Definite and indefinite. In Brown, Keith (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics, volume III, 392–9. Oxford: Elsevier.
Bauer, Brigitte L. M. 2007. The definite article in Indo-European: Emergence of a new grammatical category? In Stark, Elisabeth, Leiss, Elisabeth, and Abraham, Walter (eds.), Nominal Determination: Typology, Context Constraints, and Historical Emergence, 103–39. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Diessel, Holger. 1999. Demonstratives: Form, Function and Grammaticalization. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Diessel, Holger. 2006. Demonstratives. In Brown, Edward Keith (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics, volume III, 430–5. Oxford: Elsevier.
Haspelmath, Martin. 1999. Explaining article-possessor complementarity: Economic motivation in noun phrase syntax. Language 75(2). 227–43.
Sand, Andrea. 2003. The definite article in Irish English and other contact varieties of English. In Tristram, Hildegard L.C. (ed.), The Celtic Englishes, Volume III, 413–30. Heidelberg: Winter.
Sand, Andrea. 2004. Shared morpho-syntactic features of contact varieties: Article use. World Englishes 23(2). 281–98.
Sankoff, Gillian and Mazzie, Claudia. 1991. Determining noun phrases in Tok Pisin. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Linguistics 6(1). 1–24.