I may be wrong, but I don't seem to have come across the term 'weak definite article' in English linguistics though I think I've encountered it in German or French linguistics. (I've read 'weak definites, referring to noun phrases with definite articles that does not allow you to uniquely identify the referents, but not 'weak definite articles' in English linguistics)

Is it not used? Or, is it just me and my lack of experience? Any and all thoughts would be welcome.

  • 1
    By the term "English Linguistics" do you mean English language or (maybe) linguistic researches/ books on linguistics in English ? Oct 1 '17 at 1:57
  • @WiccanKarnak. I mean academics in the English linguistics field.
    – Sssamy
    Oct 1 '17 at 2:05
  • well, that was recursive , you just mentioned the phrase again, is that English language again? Oct 1 '17 at 2:08
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    However, there's no harm in telling you that, unless there's been a recent bahnbrechende Erfindung at MIT, the term weak article (definite or indefinite) is not used in linguistic descriptions of English. Or if it is, I haven't encountered it in 50+ years of being an English language linguist, so it isn't used much. Indeed, the only meaning I can put on it is the distinction between the two allomorphs of the: /ði/ before vowels and /ðə/ before consonants. But these are entirely phonological and don't depend on morphology at all, so calling one "weak" seems silly.
    – jlawler
    Oct 2 '17 at 14:23
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    Those people are talking about philosophy, not English. Definite articles in English are often used in definite descriptions (which is a philosophical term, not a linguistic one), but they more often have nothing to do with unique identification. Indeed, some of their idiomatic uses (and practically all their uses are idiomatic, not semantic) are exact opposites of "unique identification", like I dialed the wrong number.
    – jlawler
    Oct 8 '17 at 14:27

According to Cardinaletti & Starke 1999, there is in English:


I see ya.
*I see ya and her.


I see you.
I see you and her.
  • 2
    But the question is clearly about a distinction in semantics, not a distinction in phonetics or prosody, so this is not a helpful answer.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 2 '18 at 23:16
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    @ColinFine McWhorter argues for these phonetically reduced pronouns to be counted as separate morphemes (they cliticise readily) and there is a case to be made for a semantic distinction too
    – OmarL
    Oct 3 '18 at 15:59
  • 1
    Either way, the question is about articles, not pronominals?
    – OmarL
    Oct 3 '18 at 15:59
  • I agree with Wilson (esp. 2nd comment) My bad!
    – purlupar
    Oct 3 '18 at 20:43

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