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A determiner, also called determinative (
abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for example, the word ''abbrevia ...
), is a
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with objective or practical meaning. In many languages, words also correspond to sequences of graphemes ("letters") in ...
,
phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In linguistic analysis, a phrase is a group of words (or possibly a single word) that functions as a con ...
, or
affix In linguistics, an affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word or word form. Affixes may be derivational, like English ''-ness'' and ''pre-'', or inflectional, like English plural ''-s'' and past tense ''-ed''. They are b ...
that occurs together with a
noun A noun (from Latin ''nōmen'', literally ''name'') is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Living creat ...
or
noun phraseA noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase that has a noun (or indefinite pronoun) as its head or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common cross-linguistically, and they may be the most frequently occurring ...
and serves to express the
reference Reference is a relationship between objects in which one object designates, or acts as a means by which to connect to or link to, another object. The first object in this relation is said to ''refer to'' the second object. It is called a ''name'' ...
of that noun or noun phrase in the context. That is, a determiner may indicate whether the noun is referring to a definite or indefinite element of a class, to a closer or more distant element, to an element belonging to a specified person or thing, to a particular number or quantity, etc. Common kinds of determiners include definite and indefinite
article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar), a grammatical element used to indicate definiteness or indefiniteness * Article (publishing), a piece of nonfictional prose that is an independent part of a publication Article may also refer to: Go ...
s (like the English ''the'' and ''a'' or ''an''),
demonstrative Demonstratives (abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning depending on a particular frame o ...
s (''this'' and ''that''),
possessive determiner A possessive or ktetic form (abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or a nu ...
s (''my'' and ''their''),
cardinal numeral In linguistics, and more precisely in traditional grammar, a cardinal numeral (or cardinal number word) is a part of speech used to count. Examples in English are the words ''one'', ''two'', ''three'', and the compounds ''three hundred and forty- ...
s, quantifiers (''many'', ''both'', ''all'' and ''no''), distributive determiners (''each'', ''any''), and
interrogative An interrogative clause is a clause whose form is typically associated with question-like meanings. For instance, the English sentence "Is Hannah sick?" has interrogative syntax which distinguishes it from its declarative counterpart "Hannah is sic ...
determiners (''which'').


Description

Most determiners have been traditionally classed along with either adjectives or
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated ) is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not consider them to form a single ...

pronoun
s, and this still occurs in classical grammars: for example, demonstrative and possessive determiners are sometimes described as ''demonstrative adjectives'' and ''possessive adjectives'' or as ''(adjectival) demonstrative pronouns'' and ''(adjectival) possessive pronouns'' respectively. These classical interpretations of determiners map to some of the linguistic properties related to determiners in modern syntax theories, such as deictic information,
definiteness In linguistics, definiteness is a semantic feature of noun phrases (NPs), distinguishing between referents or senses that are identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases). The prototy ...
and
genitive case In grammar, the genitive case (abbreviated ), is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus, indicating an attributive relationship of one noun to the other noun. A genitive can al ...
. However, modern theorists of
grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such const ...
prefer to distinguish determiners as a separate
word class In traditional grammar, a part of speech or part-of-speech (abbreviated as POS or PoS) is a category of words (or, more generally, of lexical items) that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech gener ...
from adjectives, which are simple modifiers of nouns, expressing attributes of the thing referred to. This distinction applies particularly in languages like English that use definite and indefinite articles, frequently as a necessary component of noun phrases – the determiners may then be taken to be a class of words that includes the articles as well as other words that function in the place of articles. (The composition of this class may depend on the particular language's rules of
syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences (sentence structure) in a given language, usually including word order. The term ''syntax'' is also used to refer to the study of suc ...
; for example, in English the
possessive A possessive or ktetic form (abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or a nu ...
s ''my'', ''your'' etc. are used without articles and so can be regarded as determiners, whereas their
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...
equivalents ' etc. are used together with articles and so may be better classed as adjectives.) Not all languages can be said to have a lexically distinct class of determiners. In some languages, the role of certain determiners can be played by
affix In linguistics, an affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word or word form. Affixes may be derivational, like English ''-ness'' and ''pre-'', or inflectional, like English plural ''-s'' and past tense ''-ed''. They are b ...
es (prefixes or suffixes) attached to a noun or by other types of
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiten ...
. For example, definite articles are represented by suffixes in
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania **Romanians, an ethnic group **Romanian language, a Romance language ***Romanian dialects, variants of the Romanian language **Romanian cuisine, traditional ...
, Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Swedish. (For example, in Swedish, ' ("book"), when definite, becomes ' ("the book"), while the Romanian ' ("notebook") similarly becomes ''caietul'' ("the notebook").) Some languages, such as Finnish, have
possessive affix In linguistics, a possessive affix (from la, affixum possessivum) is an affix (usually suffix or prefix) attached to a noun to indicate its possessor, much in the manner of possessive adjectives. Possessive affixes are found in many languages of t ...
es, which play the role of possessive determiners like ''my'' and ''his''. Some theoreticians unify determiners and
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated ) is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not consider them to form a single ...

pronoun
s into a single class. For further information, see .
Universal grammar#REDIRECT Universal grammar {{R from move ...
is the theory that all humans are born equipped with
grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such const ...
, and all languages share certain properties. There are arguments that determiners are not a part of universal grammar and are instead part of an emergent
syntactic categoryA syntactic category is a syntactic unit that theories of syntax assume. Word classes, largely corresponding to traditional parts of speech (e.g. noun, verb, preposition, etc.) are syntactic categories. In phrase structure grammars, the ''phrasal cat ...
. This has been shown through the studies of some languages' histories, including Dutch. Determiners may be subcategorized as predeterminers, central determiners and postdeterminers, based on the order in which they can occur. For example, "all my many very young children" uses one of each. "My all many very young children" is not grammatically correct because a central determiner cannot precede a predeterminer.


Articles

Articles Article often refers to: * Article (grammar), a grammatical element used to indicate definiteness or indefiniteness * Article (publishing), a piece of nonfictional prose that is an independent part of a publication Article may also refer to: Go ...
are words used with a noun (as a standalone word or a prefix or suffix) to specify the grammatical definiteness of a noun, and, in some languages, to volume or numerical scope.


Definite article

The definite article in the English language is the word ''the''. It denotes people, places, and things that have already been mentioned, implied, or presumed to be known by the listener.


Indefinite article

The indefinite article takes the forms of ''a'' and ''an'' in English. It is mostly synonymous with ''one'', but the word ''one'' is usually used when emphasizing singularity.


Demonstratives

Demonstrative Demonstratives (abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning depending on a particular frame o ...
s are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are usually
deicticIn linguistics, deixis (, ) is the use of general words and phrases to refer to a specific time, place, or person in context, e.g., the words ''tomorrow'', ''there'', and ''they''. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denote ...

deictic
, which means their meaning changes with
context Context may refer to: * Context (language use), the relevant constraints of the communicative situation that influence language use, language variation, and discourse summary. Computing * Context (computing), the virtual environment required to su ...
. They can indicate how close the things being referenced are to the speaker, listener, or other group of people. In English Demonstratives express proximity of things with respect to the speaker.


Proximal demonstratives

In English, the words ''this'' and ''these'' are the proximal demonstratives. They express that the particular things being mentioned are very close to the speaker.


Distal demonstratives

The distal demonstratives in the English language are ''that'' and ''those''. They express that there is some distance between the things being referenced and the speaker.


Possessive determiner

Possessive determiner A possessive or ktetic form (abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or a nu ...
s such as ''my'' and ''their'' modify a noun by attributing possession (or other sense of belonging) to someone or something, and usually reflect the noun's
genitive In grammar, the genitive case (abbreviated ), is the grammatical case that marks a word, usually a noun, as modifying another word, also usually a noun—thus, indicating an attributive relationship of one noun to the other noun. A genitive can al ...
case Case or CASE may refer to: Containers * Case (goods), a package of related merchandise * Case, the metallic enclosure component in modern firearm cartridges * Bookcase, a piece of furniture used to store books * Briefcase or attaché case, a narro ...
. They are also known as possessive adjectives.


Quantifiers

Quantifiers indicate quantity. Some examples of quantifiers include: ''all'', ''some'', ''many'', ''few'', and ''no''. Quantifiers are also dependent of a
noun A noun (from Latin ''nōmen'', literally ''name'') is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Living creat ...
. Quantifiers only indicate a vague quantity of objects, not a specific number, such as ''twelve'', ''dozen'', ''first'', ''single'', or ''once'', which would be considered
numerals A numeral is a figure, symbol, or group of figures or symbols denoting a number. It may refer to: * Numeral system used in mathematics * Numeral (linguistics), a part of speech denoting numbers (e.g. ''one'' and ''first'' in English) * Numerical di ...
.


Distributive determiners

Distributive determiners, also called distributive adjectives, consider members of a group separately, rather than collectively. Words such as ''each'', ''any'', ''either'', and ''neither'' are examples of distributive determiners. This type of determiner also depends on a noun. These determiners are not to be confused with
distributive pronounA distributive pronoun considers members of a group separately, rather than collectively. They include '' either, neither'' and others. * "to each his own" 'each2,(pronoun)Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary'' (2007) * "Men take each other's m ...
s, which can operate without a noun. * Each went his own way. (''Each'' is used as a pronoun, without an accompanying noun.) * Each man went his own way. (''Each'' is used as a determiner, accompanying the noun ''man''.)


Interrogative determiners

Interrogatives are used to ask a question, such as ''which'', ''what'', and ''whose'' (personal possessive determiner). These determiners also depend on a noun.


As a functional head

Some modern grammatical approaches regard determiners as
head A head is the part of an organism which usually includes the ears, brain, forehead, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, and mouth, each of which aid in various sensory functions such as sight, hearing, smell, and taste, respectively. Some very simple anim ...
s of their own phrases. In such approaches, noun phrases are generally dominated by determiner phrases whose heads are often
null Null may refer to: Science, technology, and mathematics Computing *Null (SQL) (or NULL), a special marker and keyword in SQL indicating that something has no value *Null character, the zero-valued ASCII character, also designated by NUL, often us ...
. Noun phrases that contain only a noun and do not have a determiner present are known as bare noun phrases. For more detail on theoretical approaches to the status of determiners, see . Some theoreticians analyze
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (abbreviated ) is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the parts of speech, but some modern theorists would not consider them to form a single ...

pronoun
s as determiners or determiner phrases. See Pronoun: Theoretical considerations. This is consistent with the determiner phrase viewpoint, whereby a determiner, rather than the noun that follows it, is taken to be the head of the phrase.


See also

*
Classifier (linguistics) A classifier (abbreviated or ) is a word or affix that accompanies nouns and can be considered to "classify" a noun depending on the type of its referent. It is also sometimes called a measure word or counter word. Classifiers play an important ro ...
* Determiner spreading


References


External links


GrammarBank – Determiners Practice

SIL Glossary of linguistic terms – What is a determiner?
{{lexical categories Parts of speech
Grammar Grammar can be used to mean the study of the rules governing the use of a language. However, this category refers to the more traditional meaning which includes only morphology and syntax. {{CatAutoTOC Language mechanics Linguis ...
Syntactic categories{{Commonscat Categories ...
Grammatical marker type