Consider the highlighted nouns below.
Empire is not always a good thing. (The burden of empire, like its benefit, was not equitably shared.)
Some great apes have theory of mind. (Theory may tell us one thing, but practice teaches us another.)
Using force to chastize one's own ally is not war.
Man is the measure of all things.
We lost an empire, but won a market.
Darwin proposed a theory.
In a war of attrition, you need a force equal to those of your foe and the "neutral" noncombatants combined.
I saw a man.
To the top line, please also add this from Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai by Robert Bickers (emphasis added).
But one thing which does strike one is that Maurice Tinkler took empire too seriously. In The Road to Wigan Pier, former imperial policeman George Orwell wrote about the fact that every imperialist knew that the rhetoric of empire was all airy fluff at heart, and that empire was the brute fact of power. . . . For Tinkler, it wasn't merely that empire was the geopolitical status quo. . . .
Is there a term in grammar or linguistics for the type of "bare" nouns (those without an article) shown in the first two sentences (i.e. empire and theory)?
It could be a term unique to English grammar or applicable to the phenomenon in any language.
If the question is perfectly clear, you don't have to read this background.
What I mean by the "phenomenon":
It seems to me that empire and theory are different from force and war.
With force and war, they seem to have two established usages, countable and uncountable. As a result, saying, "Using force to chastize one's own ally is not war," may not amount to a special adaptation. (If you are wondering, the sentiment is from the Peloponnesian War.)
But with empire and theory, it seems perhaps the countable use is better established, and the "bare" instances may therefore look like a special adaptation. (Theory of mind here means one ape's attribution of mind to another ape as in: "Oh, he doesn't know the panther is coming. I should warn him.")
Anyway I'm not insisting that my characterization is accurate. I am only trying to bring out the difference a little bit.
As for man I don't know where that comes from. We don't say, "Lion is a mammal."
What I'd like to know:
If there is a standard term for cases like empire and theory, that's what I'd like to know.
If not, terms to include some broader range of "bare" nouns would also help.
If not, I would appreciate pointers (e.g. Internet links) to standard treatments of the phenomenon, again whether for English or not.
If you are a grammarian or linguist and proceed to give an account of it right here, deny that it exists (i.e. empire and theory are no different from force and war), etc. that too would be appreciated. But in that case, please tell me your qualifications (degree, teaching post, etc.).
If empire, theory, force and war are all doing the same thing, I would still like to know the standard terms of discourse. Thanks!
I have supplied other examples for top two lines (those in parentheses and the long quote) in response to comments received. I hope at least some of them may be grammatical.