Definiteness (linguistics)

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Definitheit or German determinateness is a category of determination in linguistics that applies to referring expressions or expressions related to such. (Referential expressions are nominal expressions in the broadest sense.) Their function is to provide a reference to what is already known in the universe of speech (definiteness, e.g. the old lady , this ) from the reference to something not yet introduced into the universe of speech (indefiniteness, e.g. . an old lady , someone ) to distinguish. In languages ​​such as German, definiteness is a grammatical category that is mainly in contrast between the definite (certain) vs. expresses indefinite (indefinite) article .

In languages ​​such as German, a nominal expression is marked as definitive if and only if the set of its speakers already exists in the speech universe and if it is exhausted, i.e. H. when all and not just some elements of the already introduced set are meant.

  1. There were students. They came up to me.
  2. There were students. Some came up to me.

In both examples, the nominal term student is indefinite, because this term first introduces the speakers. After this sentence this set of speakers is introduced. In the second sentence of Example 1 it is exhausted; therefore there is the definite pronoun she . In the follow-up to Example 2, on the other hand, reference is made to this amount, but it is not used up; therefore there is the indefinite pronoun some .

The linguistic expression of definiteness is expressed in article languages ​​such as German, English, French, Bulgarian, Greek and many others through the article , but also by means of other determinatives and pronouns.

See also


  • Christopher Lyons: Definiteness . University Press, Cambridge 1999, ISBN 0-521-36835-9 .
  • Wolfgang Gladrow: The determination of the noun in Russian and German. A confrontational study . VEB Verlag Enzyklopädie, Leipzig 1979 (also dissertation, Humboldt University Berlin, 1972).

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