Determiner (function)

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A determiner is a noun-modifier that expresses the reference of a noun or noun-phrase in the context, rather than attributes expressed by adjectives. This function is usually performed by articles, demonstratives, possessive determiners, or quantifiers.


  • The girl is a student.
  • I've lost my keys.
  • Some folks get all the luck.
  • Which book is that?
  • I only had two drinks.
  • I'll take that one.
  • Both windows were open.

Contents

Function

In most Indo-European languages, determiners are either independent words or clitics that precede the rest of the noun-phrase. In other languages, determiners are prefixed or suffixed to the noun, or even change the noun's form. For example, in Swedish bok "book", when definite, becomes boken "the book" (suffixed definite articles are common in Scandinavian languages).

Some constructions, such as those that use names of school subjects ("Physics uses mathematics"), don't use a determiner. This condition is called the "zero determiner" instance.

X-bar theory contends that every noun has a corresponding determiner. In a case where a noun does not have a pronounced determiner, X-bar theory hypothesizes the presence of a zero article.

English determiners

The determiner function is usually performed by the determiner class of words, but can also be filled by words from other entities:

Determiner Class

A determiner establishes the reference of a noun or noun-phrase, including quantity, rather than its attributes as expressed by adjectives. Despite this tendency, determiners have a variety of functions including, in English, modifiers in adjective phrases and determiner phrases, and even markers of coordination.

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