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For other uses, see Definiteness (disambiguation).

In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities that are specific and identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases).

There is considerable variation in the expression of definiteness across languages:

Use in different languages[edit]

Examples are:

  • Phrasal clitic: as in Basque: Cf. emakume ("woman"), emakume-a (woman-ART: "the woman"), emakume ederr-a (woman beautiful-ART: "the beautiful woman")
  • Noun affix: as in Romanian: om ("man"), om-ul (man-ART: "the man"); om-ul bun (man-ART good: "the good man")
  • Prefix on both noun and adjective: Arabic الكتاب الكبير (al-kitāb al-kabīr) with two instances of al- (DEF-book-DEF-big, literally, "the book the big")
  • Distinct verbal forms: as in Hungarian: olvasok egy könyvet (read-1sg.pres.INDEF a book-ACC.sg: "I read a book") versus olvasom a könyvet (read-1sg.pres.DEF the book-ACC.sg: "I read the book")

Germanic, Romance, Celtic, Semitic, and auxiliary languages generally have a definite article, sometimes used as a postposition. Many other languages do not. Some examples are Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, and modern Slavic languages except Bulgarian and Macedonian. When necessary, languages of this kind may indicate definiteness by other means such as Demonstratives.

It is common for definiteness to interact with the marking of case in certain syntactic contexts. In many languages direct objects (DOs) receive distinctive marking only if they are definite. For example in Turkish, the DO in the sentence adamları gördüm (meaning "I saw the men") is marked with the suffix (indicating definiteness). The absence of the suffix means that the DO is indefinite ("I saw men").

In Serbo-Croatian (and in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian), and to a lesser extent in Slovene, definiteness can be expressed morphologically on prenominal adjectives. The short form of the adjective is interpreted as indefinite, while the long form is definite and/or specific:

  • short (indefinite): Serbo-Croatian nov grad "a new city"; Lithuanian balta knyga "a white book"
  • long (definite): novi grad "the new city, a certain new city"; baltoji knyga "the white book, a certain white book"

In Japanese, a language which indicates noun functions with postpositions, the topic marker (wa) may include definiteness. For example, 馬は (uma wa) can mean "the horse", while 馬が (uma ga) can mean "a horse".

In some languages, the definiteness of the object affects the transitivity of the verb. In the absence of peculiar specificity marking, it also tends to affect the telicity of mono-occasional predications.

Grammatical state[edit]

The morphological category corresponding to definiteness in the Semitic languages is known as grammatical state. State is a property of the inflection of nouns, much like number and case, and adjectives must agree in state with their associated noun, just like they agree in number, gender and case. The Semitic languages have three values for grammatical state: indefinite, definite and construct. Indefinite and definite state function much as elsewhere. The construct state is specifically used of a definite noun that is modified by another noun in a genitive construction. Typically, no other element can intervene between construct-state noun and modifying genitival noun, and the two often function as a phonological unit. In Arabic, for example, the feminine ending of nouns in the construct state has a special sandhi form -at-.

See also[edit]

References[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definiteness — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

86 news items

 
Sinapse Blog (blog)
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 00:12:00 -0700

Under 35 USC 112 (b) of the US patent Act, a patent specification should conclude with claims and the claims should particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter, which in other words mean that the claims should be definite. In 2010 ...
 
Lexology (registration)
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

It is a decision of the US Supreme Court in which the Court explains the circumstances in which a US patent will be found to be invalid for failing to meet the 'definiteness' requirement. The US Patents Act requires a patent specification to “conclude ...
 
Texas Lawyer
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:45:00 -0700

This challenge to the definiteness of the Rule 11 agreement is closely related to the issue just decided-namely, the issue of whether the terms of the additional documents are essential and whether the failure to execute those documents renders the ...
 
Lexology (registration)
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:22:30 -0700

The district court granted Nautilus' motion for summary judgment on the basis the claim term “in spaced relationship with each other” failed the definiteness requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, ...
 
AZoOptics.com (press release)
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:11:15 -0700

The configuration of the Mach–Zehnder is versatile, therefore it can be used in several fundamental research topics such as quantum mechanics, including studies on counterfactual definiteness, quantum computation, quantum entanglement, quantum logic, ...
 
Business Management Daily
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:18:45 -0700

Last week in this space, I wrote about the importance of seeing opportunity in your team and what you can do to help your team see opportunities as well. I ended by telling you that the way to create that opportunity view was by creating a definiteness ...

Managing Intellectual Property (subscription)

Managing Intellectual Property (subscription)
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:11:15 -0700

The definiteness requirement of Section 112(b) of the Patent Act mandates that claims "particularly point[] out and distinctly claim[] the subject matter which the inventor or a joint inventor regards as the invention". The disagreement in Nautilus v ...
 
Fair Observer
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:11:15 -0700

Unsurprisingly, the ontological clarity and definiteness such narratives bestow have arguably made religion the most resorted-to existential salve. Numerous studies have showed that mortality salience (reminders of death) increases participants ...
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