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Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed?

27.12.05, 23:48
I thought it would be interesting to hear what native english speakers have
to say about use of articles. Why do you use them? Because for people to
who'm english is a second language seems that english use articles because
otherwise they would have to twist their tounges....

yoric napisał:

> The Hague. Some 2 days ago an Englishman complained to me that (pre-
> intermediate) Polish learners of English tend to never use articles,

I'll be the devil's advocate!
No kidding!! When I started studying english, an articles such as "the",
or "an" seemed to me useless and not needed. Of course now, after years of
living in USA I know better; articles make speech smoother and more fluent.
But the fact is that for most Poles it seems "useless", given that by itself
it has no use.

But seriously what would happen if where was no articles in the spoken
english, would englisman be chokeing or bitting their tounges, because of the
lack of fill in words (articles)?

Obserwuj wątek
    • ianek70 Re: Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed? 28.12.05, 00:02
      waldek1610 napisał:

      > I thought it would be interesting to hear what native english speakers have
      > to say about use of articles.

      Probably the same as native Polish speakers say when you ask them the
      difference between poczekać and zaczekać.
      That it's sort of the same but one sounds more natural in this context and it's
      hard to explain why.
        • ianek70 Re: Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed? 28.12.05, 18:20
          russh napisał:

          > Hi Ian,
          > Welcome back - how did xmas in the country go?

          Better than I'd expected smile
          I still have my doubts about the Polish countryside, but at least I heard a
          cow, and was told there's a hill nearby.
          And it wasn't too Christmassy, apart from the food, which was different from
          Silesia and a bit weird - why do they put spaghetti in their pudding? I even
          bought some chocolate Santas for the tree to force myself into festiveness.
          Lots of vodka. And lots of aunts and cousins. Telly the same as every year sad
          • usenetposts Re: Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed? 29.12.05, 16:06
            The reason why we have articles in the Germanic languages is in order to work
            out whether something is established in undertsanding or not.

            Generally speaking, if we talk about something for the first time in a
            conversation, we say "a" thing, "an" object - especially if there is a choice -
            it could be any of a number of objects. By doing so, we are underscoring that
            we are talking about something that has not previously been defined for the
            purposes of understanding the conversation or the communication. "pick a card"
            is the same as "pick any card" or "pick one of the cards". If there is only one
            card, and we say "pick a card" then it seems odd, as the only card that can be
            picked is predefined, and it seems "dishonest" or "ingenuous" of the other
            speaker to make out that we have a choice when we do not. We can start to lose
            linguistic trust, as it were, to the person who uses a definite for an
            indefinite article, because he is, to our brains, refusing to accept that
            something is defined which we see as being defined. If a person continues to
            refer to the object or person which has been defined as "a/an" then they look
            as though they are either indecisive, unaware that a choice has already been
            made, or unhappy with the choice. This can lead to frustration and bad feeling,
            should the better speaker not realise that the worse speaker simply has a
            problem with his articles.

            In reverse, exactly the same think applies. Use of "the" when something is not
            defined yet or a choice still exists can seem arrogant or pushy. For
            example, "I am the accountant" instead of "I am an accountant" in contexts
            where the latter is appropriate can make the speaker seem to be taking too much
            on themselves.

            That is why these little article words are vitally important, and not just a
            detail. Failure to master them is bad linguistic hygiene - giving your English
            or your German a smell and flavour you don't want it to have and won't even be
            aware that it has - and even your friends won't tell you.

            I think the reason why certain languages retain them is that these languages
            are spoken by people who always want to know what their options are - whether
            they still have choices or whether the choices are taken. Languages with
            distinct indefinite and definite articles, such as most west European
            languages, tend to be the languages of people that have managed to develop and
            retain a lot of freedom. Languages devoid of articles are often associated with
            places where people's options have been boxed from the moment they are born, so
            they have less use for them. A lot of the places that have never known
            democracy also have no pair of articles, one for definite, another for
            indefinite. The correlation is fairly loose of course, but it could be an area
            in which we see a bit of the good old Sapir - Whorff hypothesis in action.
            • ms.jones Re: Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed? 29.12.05, 23:02
              And the winner of the most unlikely theory of language is ...UNCLE DAVEY!
              As a punishment, no, no, A REWARD, you are directed to a fascinating (NOT)
              article analysing how the anaphoric and the introductory perspectives on the
              use of a fully developed article system are communicated in 'article-less'

              You might be more interested -I was - in reading this article about the
              definite article around the world, although it doesn't make any references to
              political systems smile It says that Bulgarian has several forms of the definite
              article, unlike closely related to it Russian - which has none. Apparently
              Arabic uces the definite article more than any of the Indo-European languages.

              Here is a nice collection of mini articles on language from the same series
              which I hope you'll enjoy:


    • ms.jones Re: Purpose of articles, why is it REALLY needed? 29.12.05, 22:31
      The Commonest Word in the Language
      The social role of the word 'the'

      It's likely you've heard someone from another country say something like "They
      have big dog. I hear dog barking in yard." Why does this sound so un-English?
      Its main oddness seems to be in those missing articles - something that was
      probably unknown in the native language of the speaker. We would have to say `a
      big dog', and then once it's been identified, when we refer back to it we have
      to say `the dog'. And since it appears to be understood which yard we're
      talking about, we need to say `the yard'.

      The word `the' is one you and I use hundreds or even thousands of times every
      day, so familiar we're hardly aware of it (did you notice that this word makes
      up more than a third of all the words in the title and subtitle above?). So if
      we're so familiar with it, we must know what it means. But can we step back and
      SAY what it means? Words like `chair' or `eat' are easy, `and' is a bit harder,
      but `the' seems to resist real explanation - a bit like trying to explain in
      detail all the mechanisms involved in walking. And the does have a lot of them
      too: would you have suspected that Webster's dictionary lists 23 distinct
      meanings? Even though it's extremely difficult to reflect on something we only
      do subconsciously, let's try anyway to take a closer look at how we're using

      If you were brave enough to attempt a definition, you probably came up with the
      same one most dictionaries list first: (a) it refers back to something or
      someone previously mentioned or at least (b) clearly understood from the
      context - often just a social one. `The dog' is an example of (a), and `the
      yard' of (b). It turns out, though, that a straightforward reference back to
      something already mentioned (Go get A CUP, and hand THE CUP to me) is not
      really very common.

      Sometimes the reference back simply relies on cultural knowledge we share: It
      was a lovely wedding. I kissed the bride or It would have been a better novel
      if the author had just..., where you and I know that `wedding' necessarily
      implies `a bride' and a `novel' has to have `an author'. Often this implication
      is more subtle: He sat writing all night. The cigarette butts piled up.

      What specifies what that definite `the' is referring to might be not back but
      ahead: I'm selling the car I BOUGHT LAST YEAR; Tell me the reason WHY YOU DID
      IT. There are many types of phrases like the ones in capitals, and their
      function is always to limit the reference, in other words make it definite.
      This is not really different from the way an adjective limits (=makes definite)
      the meaning of a noun: an answer, but the right answer.

      Continuing to think of all these meanings and usages together, it begins to
      look as though `the' doesn't have anything we can call a meaning at all. `The'
      is one of those words like articles, demonstratives and possessives (the, a,
      this, my, ...), prepositions (on, with, in, ...) and conjunctions (because,
      that, if, ...), whose role is situating the words with real-world reference
      like nouns, verbs, and adjectives in a grammatical setting - making it possible
      for us to talk about them in complicated ways.

      What does the subtitle above mean when it says that the has an important social
      role? Often the doesn't refer back or forward to anything at all in what's
      being said, but rather depends on our shared knowledge of social situations. If
      we say There was a speech by the mayor, the specific person being referred to
      is not in the sentence at all, but depends on our extralinguistic knowledge of
      (a) place (what town we're in), and (b) time (when we're talking about). We can
      see this idea of variable reference in The treasurer always has to be a member
      in good standing, where no one person at all is being referred to.

      These last examples show we're getting closer to the real role played by the
      (recall those words `clearly understood' a moment ago): It's like a little flag
      signaling what knowledge you and I share. Notice that sometimes there's only an
      understanding shared by speaker and hearer: Would you open the window, please?
      Put the cat out. Look back at the examples above: to understand each other, you
      and I need to have the same idea of what role a bride plays, who the mayor is,
      and we may agree that neither of us knows (or perhaps even cares) who the
      present treasurer is. It doesn't need to be said that some people smoke heavily
      while they work intensely, because we both share that knowledge already.

      The real-world function of the in society is to establish a set of
      understandings - occasionally inside the sentence but most often outside it -
      that are shared by the speaker and the hearer. It is this set of shared (though
      normally unconscious) agreements that allow `the' to be a sign of some definite
      reference. So every day, all without knowing it, we're constantly reminding
      each other of endless aspects of the world and its situations that we have in
      common. Our little word the is a powerful social instrument.
      • waldek1610 The articless are nothing but the "fill in" words. 30.12.05, 09:29
        I wanted to point out shortcommings of the english language,and you ruined it
        with your patronising lecture on "articles".

        My intention was to poke some fun at english folks who resort to articles that
        are nothing else but simply " the fill in words" . I still don't see the point
        of your explanations.

        I believe that what you're a saying is not the only reason for articles,
        because if you consider such as words as "a", "an" you can see clearly that
        english have made up "an" so they can pronounce "an international" without
        bitting their tounges.

        Simple question; why can't you just say "a ambrela" it realy so hard for
        you to say two "a's" in the row???
          • usenetposts Re: The articless are nothing but the "fill in" w 30.12.05, 12:30
            russh napisał:

            > Simple question; why can't you just say "a ambrela" it realy so hard for
            > > you to say two "a's" in the row???
            > If I knew what an 'ambrela' was, maybe I could educate you.

            Or, it's official - Waldek talks Pidgin English.
              • usenetposts Re: The articless are nothing but the "fill in" w 30.12.05, 15:51
                waldek1610 napisał:

                > Davey,
                > Don't throw stones whille in the hot house....
                > Don't say nothing if you can't impress me ...better yet when you can't even
                > a sentence together in you said you live in Poland how long?

                Don't make me laugh. I talk Polish all day long, and probably know words in it
                that you don't know.
                • waldek1610 Re: The articless are nothing but the "fill in" w 31.12.05, 06:10
                  usenetposts napisał:

                  > Don't make me laugh. I talk Polish all day long, and probably know words in
                  > that you don't know.
                  Name one? I heard something about linguistic skills of British people; when
                  they know 500 words in given language they claim they mastered it...But when I
                  as a Pole make spelling error in college level english you say "Waldek can't
                  speak english"...

                  I didn't bothered to count every english word that I've learn, but it's enough
                  to say that I can read New York Times or any hard cover novel in english
                  language hardly ever looking into dictionary...I'm sure my english vocabulary
                  is around 20 000 or more.
          • waldek1610 Why don't english pronounce; Eureka-ea-oo-rea-kah? 30.12.05, 12:52
            russh napisał:

            > Simple question; why can't you just say "a ambrela" it realy so hard for
            > > you to say two "a's" in the row???
            > If I knew what an 'ambrela' was, maybe I could educate you.

            That's the point, why do you spell it "Umbrella" if you pronounce it Am-bre-la?
            My mistake was due to the fact that english is the only language that uses
            latin charactrers, that doesnt pronounce vowels :A(ah) E(ae) U(oo) I(ee)

            Why is that all Europeans;French,Italians, Romanians, Russians, Germans,
            Norvegians, Greek, Swedish... pronounce "Eureka" (ea-oo-rae-kah)...except
            english who changed totaly pronauncination to Yoo-ree--kah....Where do you
            see "U", if the first leter is "E" (AE)??? You think you can just ignore it
            because you're english?

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