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An article is a marker that accompanies the noun and expresses notions such as (non-)specificity and (in)definiteness and new or given status (Crystal 1997: 26). Sometimes these notions of specificity, definiteness and information status are summed up in the term "identifiability". Articles cannot occur independently, though they might be homophoneous with pronouns or numerals that can.

A language does not necessarily have both an non-specific/indefinite and a specific/definite marker. These markers often stem from very different sources (numerals and demonstratives) and need not be similar in formal expression or position.

Formal expression is irrelevant, articles can be free, bound, or marked by suprasegmental markers such as tone.

Articles are different from demonstratives in that demonstratives occur in a paradigm where there are markers that have a clear spatial deictic function. As demonstratives can grammaticalize into definite or specific article they form a natural continuum making it hard to define discrete categories. Articles are more grammaticalized, i.e. are often obligatory in certain context that require definite or specific reference. Definite or specific articles can also grammaticalize from pronouns meaning 'a certain'. As articles necessarily accompany nouns, it is in these cases it is necessary to investigate whether the marker can occur independently or not, if it can it is most likely a pronoun and not an article. Articles can be homophoneous with pronouns, see discussions on mulitifunctionality and take an informed stance in the language-specific case whether these markers are homophoneous or polysemic.


The term goes back to antiquity (Latin articulus, Greek árthron).

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