Different languages have different ways of implementing articles.

English has a very simple system, of simply "the" and "a". However, there is some irregularities regarding when one uses "the" or "an". For instance, an English speaker would say "George plays the piano" even though "which piano" is not specified. (Source)

French has a definite article system, but it combines a partitive system with it.

Therefore what resources are there that offer a survey of the all the ways the world languages uses articles?

  • 2
    Searching for "definite article typology linguistics" brings up some useful-looking resources.
    – TKR
    Nov 2, 2023 at 16:23
  • You might be interested in Articles in the world’s languages (Becker 2021), see also the PhD thesis version here.
    – Miztli
    Nov 3, 2023 at 14:50
  • George was playing a piano in that play, not a violin.
    – Lambie
    Nov 4, 2023 at 15:37
  • @Lambie, Goerge was playing on the piano. Afoot, a-priori, a-gogo, etc. hence a piano, but OP argues it is the and that's quite correct.
    – vectory
    Nov 4, 2023 at 19:33
  • @vectory The OP has no idea of how complicated this is or how there are definite rules for a/plural noun and the. And French is not helpful to explain English. A survey of how all the world languages use articles is a pipe dream. One can just go look the English usage in a good grammar book.
    – Lambie
    Nov 4, 2023 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


For a starter, you can look at the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures (WALS), specifically at Chapter 37 (Definite Articles) and Chapter 38 (Indefinite Articles). Unfortunately, there is no chapter on partitives, as far as I can see.

For the nitty-gritty details and ideosyncrasies of the individual languages you need to study their respective grammars.

  • Did nobody write a Ph.D. thesis surveying the nitty-gritty details of the definite article systems of at least a select group of languages?
    – Fomalhaut
    Nov 2, 2023 at 12:23
  • 2
    I can imagine (I have not actively searched for it) comparative work dealing with pairs of language since translators have to deal with translating definiteness, and language teachers need to teach definiteness. Probably there are larger studies as well, maybe dealing with the historical development of a certain system of articles and their use. Nov 2, 2023 at 12:28
  • 3
    What would be studied would be Definiteness, not just articles. Many if not most languages don't have articles but manage to indicate definiteness in some way. Turkish, for instance, has no definite articles, but nouns in certain syntactic constructions are definite.
    – jlawler
    Nov 2, 2023 at 21:12
  • 1
    @jlawler Thank you for teaching me the correct name of the subject.
    – Fomalhaut
    Nov 3, 2023 at 3:36

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