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Do any languages distinguish between indefinite and definite articles thus:

  1. one beer 1sg-drink `I drank A beer.'
  2. beer 1sg-drink `I drank THE/A beer.'

That is, is it possible for a language to mark only the indefinite meaning? In this case, there is no definite meaning, strictly speaking.

Is there a term or terms that describe this kind of scenario?

  • There are lots of languages like that, e.g. Russian, Turkish. In these languages there's no definite article, but they use the word for "one" pretty much like English uses "a/an". – Yellow Sky Jul 7 '14 at 6:10
  • So, in Russian and Turkish, an NP unmarked for 'one' is interpreted as ambiguously the/a? Is there a word for such languages? – Teusz Jul 7 '14 at 6:21
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    I guess it's possible, but is it likely? Research in other areas, cf. Corbett Number (2012), show that there are asymmetries in what is marked. For instance, most languages don't mark the singular, but rather the plural. Languages that mark both are rarer. And languages that have unmarked plurals, but marked singulars are a very small group. I suspect that a similar situation holds with the definite/indefinite distinction. – Thomas Gross Jul 7 '14 at 8:38
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    @mateuz Russian expresses defininetess/indefinetess mostly through word order. Using "one" as a pseudo-article is just a hack for cases when word order doesn't resolve the ambiguity. – carsten Jan 30 '15 at 23:27

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