At university, we have been looking into language change, and seeing how for example "one" was used as the singular indefinite article, which changed into "a", but a question arose about whether or not there exists a language with a dual indefinite article, and if this would then come from "two".

Does anyone know of a language with a dual indefinite article? And does it use the number two or come from it?

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    two basically is the dual indefinite article. I'm not sure if it proves much, but in some languages two and even three are declined according to the number, gender and case of the noun, similar to one. For example in Slavic languages (which generally have no articles though) and in some Allemannic dialects. Mar 5, 2019 at 19:25
  • I would love to see some examples. Mar 6, 2019 at 8:31
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    zwei, zwo, zweier... два, две, двух... Mar 6, 2019 at 21:22
  • Another but of evidence that two is the dual indefinite article: a form of one is the singular indefinite article in many if not most languages that have indefinite articles. Jun 30, 2019 at 19:31
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    @AdamBittlingmayer: Who uses the word "article" in a way that includes all numerals? "A(n)" is special in English (and resembles the definite article "the") in that it is not optional; "two" on the other hand is optional. It's ungrammatical to omit "a" in "I have a nose" but it is grammatical to say "I have hands" rather than "I have two hands." Jun 30, 2019 at 20:09

1 Answer 1


Ancient Greek arguably has a dual indefinite article tiné. Literally it means "some [two things]", and is unrelated to the numeral "two".

To elaborate a bit more: Ancient Greek didn't have mandatory indefinite articles during the Classical period, but the indefinite correlative tis was in the process of grammaticalizing into that niche. The dual wasn't particularly productive (or common) by this point, mostly showing up in fixed expressions like "two eyes", but tis still had a full declension pattern, including dual forms.

(Note: tis is specifically the Attic dialect form; other dialects had kis or sis.)

Eventually, the singular forms of tis-as-indefinite-article were displaced by forms of hen- "one"; the plural was unaffected, and the dual had died out completely by that point. But if the dual had survived into Modern Greek, it would presumably have an article based on tiné or on dyo "two".

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