Definite articles

Alxmrphi

Senior Member
UK English
Hi all,

I was wondering which language has the most definite articles in it? I was having a conversation and the thought came to me and I can't find the answer on google,

So maybe, we could do a list of all languages and how many versions of the definite article are in each one..
(I mean different words, some will obviously overlap but I just mean different words)

I can start with:

English - 1
the

Italian - 6

il
i
la
le
lo
gli


Icelandic - 13

-inn
-num
-ins
-nir
-na
-nna
-in
-ina
-inni
-innar
-nar
-ið
-inu


 
  • arsham

    Senior Member
    Persian
    French:

    le
    la
    l'
    les

    Persian:

    را (marks definite direct object)
    -e (in the colloquial speech, it operates as a contrastive marker)

    Arabic:

    ال al-
     

    Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    German:

    Nominative case

    der (m)
    die (f)
    das (n)

    die (plural)

    Genitive

    des (m)
    der (f)
    des (n)

    der (plural)

    Dative:

    dem (m)
    der (f)
    dem (n)

    den (plural)

    Accusative:

    den (m)
    die (f)
    das (n)

    die (plural)

    So 6 different if I count right.
     

    NotNow

    Senior Member
    English
    Hebrew has one, ה

    It's a prefix and is added to the beginning of the word that it modifies.
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    N/A
    Hebrew has one, ה
    Pronounced either "ha" (short) or "haa" (long) or "he" (short) depending on the following consonant, therefore you can count it as three. Most modern Hebrew speakers use only "ha".


    Aramaic:

    א = "a", appended to the word and usually affects the word pronounciation.
     
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    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Portuguese has 4:
    o (m.s.)
    a (f.s.)
    os (m.pl.)
    as (f.pl.)

    Counting definite articles can be a little tricky. Do you count different declensions of an article as different articles? And does only the form matter, or the meaning?

    For instance, I one could argue that Spanish has 5 definite articles:

    el - m.s.
    la (+ allomorph el) - f.s.
    lo - n.s.
    los - m.pl.
    las - f.pl.

    Whereas in French l' is merely an allomorph of le, so I would count both together.
     

    bb3ca201

    Senior Member
    English/Scottish Gaelic, Canada
    Gaelic has different forms, too (a lot of fun learning them!). Here they all are -- it's not really that hard:

    Subject / Direct Object / Dative - am, an, a', na (h-)

    Genitive - a', na, nam / nan
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    Standard Dutch:
    singular: de; het
    plural: de

    My Brabantian dialect:
    singular: de, den; het
    plural: de, d'

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    RaLo18

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Other than the three definite articles origumi mentioned, there are some prefixed that replace the ה.

    For examples,
    The restaurant = המסעדה
    In the restaurant = במסעדה

    So, there are 6 different definite articles in Hebrew:
    ה (ha)
    ה (haa)
    ה (he)
    ב (ba) (in the, on the, by the etc.)
    ל (la) (to the, for the)
    כ (ka) (like the, as the)
     

    amikama

    a mi modo
    עברית
    So, there are 6 different definite articles in Hebrew:
    ה (ha)
    ה (haa)
    ה (he)
    ב (ba) (in the, on the, by the etc.)
    ל (la) (to the, for the)
    כ (ka) (like the, as the)
    Well, not exactly. The last three are simply contractions of prepositional prefixes and the definite article ha- (be- + ha- = ba-, le- + ha- = la-, etc.). So I wouldn't count them as definite articles per se. (It's like saying that del is another definite article in Spanish because it's a contraction of the preposition de and the definite article el.)
     

    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    Well, not exactly. The last three are simply contractions of prepositional prefixes and the definite article ha- (be- + ha- = ba-, le- + ha- = la-, etc.). So I wouldn't count them as definite articles per se. (It's like saying that del is another definite article in Spanish because it's a contraction of the preposition de and the definite article el.)
    You should still enter three additional ones, derived from these forms:
    -a- as in b-a-bbayit 'in the house (=at home)'
    -aa- as in b-aa-ulpan 'at the Ulpan'
    -e- as in b-e-arim 'in the cities'

    Swedish has seven:
    In singular
    -en (utrum for consonant final words)
    -n (utrum for vowel final words)
    -et (neutrum for consonant final words)
    -t (neutrum for vowel final words
    In plural
    -na (utrum words)
    -en (neuter words exept cases below)
    -a (for neuter words ending in vowel and using nasal plural marker, as in stycke-n-a, hjärta-n-a)

    Finnish does not have this grammatical category at all
     
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    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In singular
    -en (utrum for consonant final words)
    -n (utrum for vowel final words)
    -et (neutrum for consonant final words)
    -t (neutrum for vowel final words
    In plural
    -na (utrum words)
    -en (neuter words exept cases below)
    -a (for neuter words ending in vowel and using nasal plural marker, as in stycke-n-a, hjärta-n-a)
    Ah, I didn't include versions where the first vowel of an ending changes (i.e. 'ið' would become ð after a noun ending in '-a' for example, augað (the eye)) In this case, then Icelandic has 8 more, with a total of 21.
    But I'm not sure if these count as separate definite articles, that's why I didn't include them in the first count, either way, I was trying to see what language (if any) might have had more than Icelandic..

    Maybe it does have the most.
     

    amikama

    a mi modo
    עברית
    You should still enter three additional ones, derived from these forms:
    -a- as in b-a-bbayit 'in the house (=at home)'
    -aa- as in b-aa-ulpan 'at the Ulpan'
    -e- as in b-e-arim 'in the cities'
    But babayit is basically be- + ha- + bayit, and it's why I consider ha- and -a- as one, the same definite article. So there are only three definite articles in Hebrew: ha- or -a-, haa- or -aa-, and he- or -e-.

    OK, I assume it's just a matter of different grammatical points of view...
     

    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    Ah, I didn't include versions where the first vowel of an ending changes (i.e. 'ið' would become ð after a noun ending in '-a' for example, augað (the eye)) In this case, then Icelandic has 8 more, with a total of 21.
    But I'm not sure if these count as separate definite articles, that's why I didn't include them in the first count, either way, I was trying to see what language (if any) might have had more than Icelandic..

    Maybe it does have the most.
    Strictly analysed Icelandic only has one definite article -in-. The rest are case endings in gender and number and affixing rules. You may argue that Swedish has more than one definite article, 2-3 for instance, it all depends on your analysis. In this thread all posters seem to have adopted your maximalistic way of defining the number, with all possible allomorphs, so you may well add 8 more.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't understand dinji,

    I'll pick an example:
    -ið is a normal neuter ending for normal bare dictionary form neuter words, can you explain why this isn't 'strictly' a definite article?

    I understand the other ones are inflections of definite articles, but they are different forms of the definite article, which was what I was looking for, in a comparison between languages, so in that sense, they are different forms of the definite article, technically -inu for example, if the word ends in a vowel and you take the '-i-' out it is essentially the same definite article just minus one letter, so I don't think it's really a different form, more of an alteration.. but as definite articles I am considering inflected forms as being different..

    But what I can't wrap my head around is your claim Icelandic that only has one...
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    But what I can't wrap my head around is your claim Icelandic that only has one...
    In terms of form, Icelandic of course has a lot of different definite articles, but in terms of function, it only has one, which is added as a suffix and takes different forms depending on neuter, case etc.

    In Swedish there is an independent definite article (den/det/de) as well as the definite suffixes, and if we count it in terms of function, we could say that Swedish has two definite articles. If we count the 7 suffixes and these 3, i.e. all the forms, we have 10.

    Norwegian and Danish also have this independent definite article, and I'm wondering if Icelandic has it, too? I've marked the article as well as the definite suffixes in blue. The point is that in some cases, this independent definite article is compulsory even if the nouns and the adjectives are already inflected in the definite form. Oh, and how do we deal with definite suffixes for adjectives? Are they definite articles? In that case, Swedish has two more, -a and -e, i.e. a total of 12 forms of definiteness.

    Example:
    En: the ugly duckling
    Sw: den fula ankungen
    Da: den grimme ælling
    No: den stygge andungen

    /Wilma
     
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    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    and I'm wondering if Icelandic has it, too?
    Definitely! (lol) :D Icelandic also has an independant definite article (hinn)

    You can see it declined in its 13 different forms here.
    What you said about function, having one, that makes sense, but it was a bit of an obvious statement, so I wasn't sure if I missed something or not:)
    The definite article would be a definite article, all versions of it would (or should have:p) exactly the same function, otherwise it'd be gramatically different and outside the scope of comparison.

    and how do we deal with definite suffixes for adjectives?
    As far as I'm aware, In Icelandic this is seen as just declining adjectives into a weak/strong form (with the definite article you have to use the weak declension of adjectives, without a definite article then the strong declension) I think this is the same grammar point you're talking about, in which case I wouldn't think they were classed as definite articles, but then again, what do I know:p ?

    In terms of form, Icelandic of course has a lot of different definite articles
    :D ok, so why do you think dinji said there is only -in- ? Am I right in assuming you aren't backing that statement?
     
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    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    I don't understand dinji,

    I'll pick an example:
    -ið is a normal neuter ending for normal bare dictionary form neuter words, can you explain why this isn't 'strictly' a definite article?
    It derives from Proto Nordic *-in-t > Old Norse -it > Mod. Icelendic -.

    Thus it is merely an inflection of -in-.
    But syncronically you could argue your case, the relationship is so intransparent that you could count two if you wish, in complementary morphological distribution.

    But against that you could argue that in some other pronouns and adjectives the same inflection is seen: The word nakin- is in neutrum nakið (barnið er nakið) with the same underlying historical *nakint so for an icelander it should be obvious that it is an inflection of the same.

    You can pursue the same lines of argument for Swedish as well.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    But if the scope is purely within Modern Icelandic excluding references to where it came from in previous languages, then you have to admit there are a LOT of definite articles.

    I don't think it's right to refer back to previous languages to make a case saying that it changes how the current language works if the original point is no longer relevant within that language (i.e. *-in-t isn't used)

    But the underlying point is, yeah they are all inflections, but to me that's a different form of the definite article, how many forms does it take, how many different definite articles are the, that was my question... so ið is one, innar is another, of course they're all inflections otherwise there would only be one. Different inflections is exactly what I'm looking for in this thread, different forms, different articles (all of the definite), what confused me was you were trying to say they somehow were not definite articles, but I can see what you mean now, the point was, I think you misunderstood (or I didn't explain well enough) my question.
     

    Lula_

    Senior Member
    Italiano-Italia
    Croatian - Serbian - Bosnian shouldn't have articles as well (if I haven't forgotten everything I learnt once) ;)
     

    apmoy70

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Greek:

    Nominative sing.: «ο» [o] (masc.), «η» [ι] (fem.), «το» [to] (neut.)
    Accusative sing.: «τον» [ton] (masc.), «την» [tin] (fem.), «το» [to] (neut.)
    Genitive sing.: «του» [tu] (masc.), «της» [tis] (fem.), «του» [tu] (neut.)

    Nominative pl.: «οι» [ι] (masc.), «οι» [ι] (fem.), «τα» [ta] (neut.)
    Accusative pl.: «τους» [tus] (masc.), «τις» [tis] (fem.), «τα» (neut.)
    Genitive pl.: «των» (masc. & fem. & neut.)

    So, Greek has 14 13
     
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    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I assume it's just a matter of different grammatical points of view...
    There's some subjectivity to it even without the issue of contractions with prepositions. Similar to Hebrew ה, there are also different pronunciations for English "the" and Arabic ال: "the" will normally come out as /ði/ before a vowel but /ðə/ or /ða/ before most or all consonants, and possibly even (at least sometimes) /ðu/ or /ðʊ/ before {w}, and Arabic ال comes out as /al/ in most situations but blends with some kinds of subsequent sounds such as /n/, becoming (in that example) /an/. (I can't list the other examples for Arabic but I know there are more.) But English speakers still consider "the" one word, not two or three. Do Arabic speakers think of ال as one word? I think so. But English is usually said to have three articles, and the other two ("an" and "a") are really just different pronunciations of the same thing, which loses its /n/ depending on what sound comes next.

    Perhaps we could say that spelling determines whether distinct pronunciations are really separate words, but that only works for the Hebrew case if niqqud count as part of "spelling". But that still breaks down in the case of prefixes (not articles anymore) like Latin "con" and "ad" and "in", which are spelled as pronounced, "com" and "ab" and "im", depending on what comes next, but still thought of as one thing apiece regardless of alternations in form.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Catalan:

    el (masc sing before consonant)
    la (fem sing before consonant)
    l' (sing before vowel)
    els (masc pl)
    les (fem pl)

    el - m.s.
    la (+ allomorph el) - f.s.
    lo - n.s.
    los - m.pl.
    las - f.pl.
    I wouldn't consider lo a definite article, just to avoid confusions...
     

    spindlemoss

    Senior Member
    Welsh
    Celtic languages

    Welsh
    only has three forms of the definite article, which has nothing to do with gender, number, case etc. - simply euphony:

    y between two consonants (or the start of a sentence before a consonant)

    yr after a consonant and before a vowel (or the start of a sentence before a consonant)

    'r after a vowel

    The Breton definite article is based on euphony too:

    an
    before n, d, t, h and vowels e.g.

    al before l

    ar
    elsewhere

    Cornish has the word an, which has a reduced form 'n before some prepositions:

    yn "in" + an > y'n "in the"

    war "on" + an > war'n "on the".

    The Irish definite articles is either:

    na + feminine singular genitive or with plurals

    an elsewhere

    These can combine with some prepositions:

    de "from" + an > den

    do "to" + an > don

    i "in" + an > sa(n)

    i + na > sna

    Scottish Gaelic has:

    am + masculine singular nominative m, p, b, f

    a' + feminine singular nominative & dative or masculine singular dative & genitive m, p, b, c, g

    na + feminine singular genitive; plural nominative & dative

    an + other singulars

    nam + plural genitive m, p, b, f

    nan + other plural genitives

    The Manx article is yn, which is often reduced to y. This can combine with prepositions as in Irish:

    ayns
    "in" + y(n) > sy(n)
     

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    Macedonian has three types of postfixed definite articles depending of the position of the object: medial and/or unspecified; proximal (or close); and distal (or distant). Total of 12 postfixed definite articles.

    -от
    -та
    -то
    -те
    -ов
    -ва
    -во
    -ве
    -он
    -на
    -но
    -не


    Bulgarian
    has total of 7 postfixed definite articles, including the short masculine forms.

    -ът
    -ят
    -a

    -та
    -то
    -те
     
    Last edited:

    Welsh_Sion

    Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Expanding on Spindlemoss (over 2 years ago) for Welsh:

    y - before consonants and the semi-vowel <w>, /w/
    yr - before vowels <a, e, i, o, u, w and y>, the consonant <h>, /h/ and the semi-vowel <i>, /j/
    'r - after a vowel or a diphthong

    Obviously, there is some degree of overlap. Further, these 'normal' rules can be over-ridden, if you need to stress the definiteness of something.

    Y ddraig = The dragon
    Mae'r ddraig yn … = The dragon is ...

    But ...

    Mae y ddraig yn ... = The dragon is ...

    I think there is a slight typo in this sentence:

    "yr after a consonant and before a vowel (or the start of a sentence before a consonant)"

    Shouldn't this read,

    "
    yr after a consonant and before a vowel and <h> and [w] (or the start of a sentence before a vowel)"?
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    Sardinian :

    su (singular masculine)
    sa (singular feminine)
    s' (singular before vowel)

    sos (plural masculine)
    sas (plural feminine)
    is (plural masculine / feminine; only in southern Sardinian, Campidanese)
     

    clamor

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Macedonian has three types of postfixed definite articles depending of the position of the object: medial and/or unspecified; proximal (or close); and distal (or distant). Total of 12 postfixed definite articles.

    -от
    -та
    -то
    -те
    -ов
    -ва
    -во
    -ве
    -он
    -на
    -но
    -не
    Classical Armenian used a similar proximal-medial-distal system, with (respectively) -s, -d and -n
    Modern Armenian has lost this distinction but has one article with two allomorphs: -n following a vowel and -ə following a consonant.
     
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