Are english articles prefixes?

A forum for discussing linguistics or just languages in general.
Post Reply
hadad
sinic
sinic
Posts: 279
Joined: 11 Sep 2010 14:02

Are english articles prefixes?

Post by hadad » 08 Feb 2014 00:18

At least where english is spoken here where I live, and seemingly with everyone I knew from elsewhere, it seems like a(n)/the are used more like prefixes that seperate words. Kinda like how -s is used to mark plural nouns. Think about it.....

Definite - The man (refers to a specific "man")
General - Man (refers to people or men in general, the plural "men" may be used instead).
Indefinite - A man (refers to a nonspecific or nonspecified man).
Emphatic Definite - Thee man (refers to the only man.) (Thee (only) man for the job)

"the" and "a(n)" are even pronounced differently depending on whether or not the noun they modify begins with a consonant over a vowel. It is pronounced ending in either a vowel or a consonant, opposite whichever the noun begins with.

I know that they're not written as prefixes, and are defined as seperate words. I'm not asking about the traditional viewpoint, but from a linguistic standpoint. If not, how might it be different if it were a prefix?
Know phrases in more languages than can fit in this signature.
Speaks English and Spanish.
Reads Sumerian.
There is more.

Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1647
Joined: 19 Sep 2011 18:37

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Salmoneus » 08 Feb 2014 00:50

... no, they're not.

Two obvious reasons why not:
a) speakers don't think they are (which is a big part of what makes a 'word')
b) morphemes, words, entire phrases can come before the article and the noun. "A possibly not all that large bison", and maybe even ?"a smaller than the one Freddy shot bison", or at least "a 'smaller-than-the-one-Freddy-shot' bison".

The former I think puts the onus of proving the case on you. The latter adds the difficulty that unless you admit both a prefix AND a particle, which are distributed exactly as though there were only the particle, then you have to admit that English has extensive incorporation of adjectives and nouns, even proper nouns, into its nouns. Which is possible, but kind of a big and improbable claim to make!

User avatar
Ahzoh
korean
korean
Posts: 6250
Joined: 20 Oct 2013 01:57
Location: Toma-ʾEzra lit Vṛḵaža

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Ahzoh » 08 Feb 2014 03:58

I think there is a moment of pause between words, compare "sand witch" and "sandwich" otherwise it makes one think an entire sentence is one word.

Also "an" is used for vowels and "a" for consonants.
the articles are not affixes by any sense of the word, otherwise it would be "anorange" and "aman". the word "not" is also not an affix even if it sounds like it's affixed.
Also the articles can be any position before the noun:
"the cow"
"the big cow"
"The big brown cow"
If the articles were affixes they'd be on the noun, not before adjectives
"big brown thecow"
Image Ӯсцӣ (Onschen) [ CWS ]
Image Šat Vṛḵažaẇ (Vrkhazhian) [ WIKI | CWS ]

User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7197
Joined: 05 Sep 2010 18:48
Contact:

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Micamo » 08 Feb 2014 05:07

hadad wrote:At least where english is spoken here where I live, and seemingly with everyone I knew from elsewhere, it seems like a(n)/the are used more like prefixes that seperate words. Kinda like how -s is used to mark plural nouns. Think about it.....

Definite - The man (refers to a specific "man")
General - Man (refers to people or men in general, the plural "men" may be used instead).
Indefinite - A man (refers to a nonspecific or nonspecified man).
Emphatic Definite - Thee man (refers to the only man.) (Thee (only) man for the job)

"the" and "a(n)" are even pronounced differently depending on whether or not the noun they modify begins with a consonant over a vowel. It is pronounced ending in either a vowel or a consonant, opposite whichever the noun begins with.

I know that they're not written as prefixes, and are defined as seperate words. I'm not asking about the traditional viewpoint, but from a linguistic standpoint. If not, how might it be different if it were a prefix?
Languages with prefixes with the function of definite and indefinite articles exist: If English was such a language, we'd see things like this.

The short man -> Short the-man
An unexpected journey -> Unexpected a-journey

You are correct however that the articles don't quite act like independent words, at least from a phonological standpoint: There's very often no prosodic break between an article and its host word (like an affix), and the article changes its phonetic shape based on its phonetic environment (like an affix). Yet, nonetheless, it has syntactically independent behavior. We call these types of things Clitics. Clitics are things that behave like independent words with respect to syntax, but behave like affixes with respect to how they're pronounced. Other examples of clitics in English include the "Saxon Genitive" 's, and the shortened auxiliaries 'd, 'nt, and 've.
My pronouns are <xe> [ziː] / <xym> [zɪm] / <xys> [zɪz]

My shitty twitter

Solarius
roman
roman
Posts: 1195
Joined: 30 Aug 2010 00:23

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Solarius » 09 Feb 2014 21:46

Yeah, I definitely understand yer confusion. Drawing boundaries between words and affixes is hard.

Which reminds me- does anyone know a good online French grammar which treats the language as spoken, so I could get a decent understanding of what is actually part of the verb and what is not?
Check out Ussaria!

User avatar
sangi39
moderator
moderator
Posts: 3284
Joined: 12 Aug 2010 00:53
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by sangi39 » 09 Feb 2014 22:00

On a related note, I'm sure there's a Bantu language which writes out the individual morphemes as distinct "words". Tsonga maybe?
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.

User avatar
Click
runic
runic
Posts: 3344
Joined: 21 Jan 2012 12:17

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Click » 09 Feb 2014 22:11

Vietnamese is by no means a Bantu language, but I think it writes out the constituent morphemes of compounds as separate words.

User avatar
Creyeditor
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 4593
Joined: 14 Aug 2012 18:32

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Creyeditor » 09 Feb 2014 22:21

Click wrote:Vietnamese is by no means a Bantu language, but I think it writes out the constituent morphemes of compounds as separate words.
Like english black bóard vs bláck board?
Creyeditor
"Thoughts are free."
Produce, Analyze, Manipulate
1 :deu: 2 :eng: 3 :idn: 4 :fra: 4 :esp:
:con: Ook & Omlűt & Nautli languages & Sperenjas
[<3] Papuan languages, Morphophonology, Lexical Semantics [<3]

User avatar
Omzinesý
runic
runic
Posts: 2593
Joined: 27 Aug 2010 07:17
Location: nowhere [naʊhɪɚ]

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Omzinesý » 09 Feb 2014 23:45

Micamo wrote: [C]litics are things that behave like independent words with respect to syntax, but behave like affixes with respect to how they're pronounced. Other examples of clitics in English include the "Saxon Genitive" 's, and the shortened auxiliaries 'd, 'nt, and 've.
Are the shortened auxiliaries 'd, 'nt, and 've really clitics?

On n't


I don't have money.
vs.
I haven't done it.

In the perfect construction it appears in the end of the auxiliary 'have' but as a normal verb 'have' cannot have n't. So they are clitics, actually.


On the other hand, they are limited to the small class of auxiliaries. You cannot postulate a syntactic rule for them, without mentioning the lexical category of auxiliaries.

I can make it. -> I can't make it.
vs.
I make it. -> I maken't it ?

The rule is: "n't is attached to the first word in the verb phrase is it is an auxiliary." This is not a fully syntactic rule, and I think a morphological rule that n't is part of the paradigm of auxiliaries is much easier.
Now I found that they are suffixes instead of clitics.


I don't like the second analysis because then we have to say that there are two 'do's, an auxiliary and a normal verb.
On the other hand, they still are only attached to auxiliaries.

User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7197
Joined: 05 Sep 2010 18:48
Contact:

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Micamo » 10 Feb 2014 00:25

Omzinesý wrote:On the other hand, they are limited to the small class of auxiliaries. You cannot postulate a syntactic rule for them, without mentioning the lexical category of auxiliaries.

I can make it. -> I can't make it.
vs.
I make it. -> I maken't it ?

The rule is: "n't is attached to the first word in the verb phrase is it is an auxiliary." This is not a fully syntactic rule, and I think a morphological rule that n't is part of the paradigm of auxiliaries is much easier.
Now I found that they are suffixes instead of clitics.
The shortened auxiliaries always appear in the same positions that a normal auxiliary would:

I've been to Germany <-> I have been to Germany
She's been to Germany <-> She has been to Germany
I didn't go <-> I did not go
I'd have done that <-> I would have done that

n't is particular, but only because "not" can't occur without an auxiliary to support it for independent reasons. "*I maken't it" is ungrammatical for the same reasons "*I make not it" is.

Note that dialects do differ as to what extent these clitics can be stacked with each other: This one probably does have a morphological or phonological explanation rather than a syntactic one, as the counterparts with the full auxiliaries are always good. My ideolect allows:

I'ven't been to Germany <-> I have not been to Germany
I'd've done that <-> I would have done that
I'd'nt do that <-> I would not do that

But not:

*I'dn't've done that <-> I would not have done that (OK: I'dn't have done that OR I'd not've done that)
Solarius wrote:Yeah, I definitely understand yer confusion. Drawing boundaries between words and affixes is hard.

Which reminds me- does anyone know a good online French grammar which treats the language as spoken, so I could get a decent understanding of what is actually part of the verb and what is not?
IIRC whether the so-called "Object Clitics" in French (and other romance languages) are part of the verb or not is still very much an active debate among Romance-ologists. Also, studies of french usually ignore the colloquial forms of the language and focus on the hyper-formal modes of the written form, because prestige unfortunately still determines what forms of language are more worthy of study than others. In other words, good luck!
My pronouns are <xe> [ziː] / <xym> [zɪm] / <xys> [zɪz]

My shitty twitter

Systemzwang
greek
greek
Posts: 615
Joined: 15 Aug 2010 14:48
Contact:

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Systemzwang » 10 Feb 2014 12:57

Ahzoh wrote:I think there is a moment of pause between words, compare "sand witch" and "sandwich" otherwise it makes one think an entire sentence is one word.
No, the pause you perceive there is actually your brain tricking you. It is a lot like when you move your eyes to the face of a clock - the time you will perceive until the first movement of a hand will almost certainly be longer than any subsequent second - despite the fact that you're probably not even seeing the hand sit still for an entire second, as it is unlikely you happened to start looking at it the moment it landed in the position you initially saw it in. If you were to record a person uttering sand witch and sandwich *unawares of you doing the recording* and compare spectrographical analyses of the utterances, you'd find no pause. However, if you now sit down to record the two words and show a graphical representation of the pause, you'd definitely find it as you're aware that's what you're trying to prove is there in the first place.

User avatar
Chagen
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 3995
Joined: 03 Sep 2011 04:14
Location: Texas

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Chagen » 10 Feb 2014 23:33

Does stress affect spectrographs at all? Because <sand witch> should be stressed twice while <sandwich> should be stressed only once.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S

Systemzwang
greek
greek
Posts: 615
Joined: 15 Aug 2010 14:48
Contact:

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Systemzwang » 11 Feb 2014 00:18

Chagen wrote:Does stress affect spectrographs at all? Because <sand witch> should be stressed twice while <sandwich> should be stressed only once.
Sure, but there's no visible pause there was the point

User avatar
ol bofosh
roman
roman
Posts: 1118
Joined: 27 Aug 2012 13:59
Location: tʰæ.ɹʷˠə.ˈgɜʉ̯.nɜ kʰæ.tə.ˈlɜʉ̯.nʲɜ spɛ̝ɪ̯n ˈjʏː.ɹəʔp

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by ol bofosh » 11 Feb 2014 09:46

I agree with Micamo. <the> and <a(n)> I see as clitics. Except perhaps when they are emphasised [ðə ə(n)] vs. [ði eɪ~æn].


Sand witch [ˈsæːnd.wɪ̈t͡ʃ] (even if phonemcally it is understood as /sænd wɪt͡ʃ /)
Sandwich [ˈsæːm.wɪ̈t͡ʃ ˈ~ sæːm.wɪ̈d͡ʒ] (the surname would be homophones with Sand witch, though).

User avatar
Thrice Xandvii
mongolian
mongolian
Posts: 3829
Joined: 25 Nov 2012 10:13
Location: Carnassus

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 11 Feb 2014 10:09

ol bofosh wrote:Sand witch [ˈsæːnd.wɪ̈t͡ʃ] (even if phonemcally it is understood as /sænd wɪt͡ʃ /)
Sandwich [ˈsæːm.wɪ̈t͡ʃ ˈ~ sæːm.wɪ̈d͡ʒ] (the surname would be homophones with Sand witch, though).
You use an [m]? For me, sand witch would be [ˈsæːnd.wɪtʃ] whereas sandwich would be [ˈsæːn.wɪtʃ].
Image

thetha
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1995
Joined: 29 Apr 2011 00:43

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by thetha » 11 Feb 2014 20:06

Click wrote:Vietnamese is by no means a Bantu language, but I think it writes out the constituent morphemes of compounds as separate words.
I think it varies: I've seen some written with dashes. I dunno if there's an official rule for how to indicate compounds (or if to do so at all) but they're usually written as separate words, yes.

Valosken
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 178
Joined: 07 May 2012 11:37

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by Valosken » 11 Feb 2014 21:22

It could be considered a clitic, perhaps. But as said - the people think it is a word, thus it is one. Language - the perfect democracy.
First, I learned English.
Dann lernte ich Deutsch.
Y ahora aprendo Español.

User avatar
ol bofosh
roman
roman
Posts: 1118
Joined: 27 Aug 2012 13:59
Location: tʰæ.ɹʷˠə.ˈgɜʉ̯.nɜ kʰæ.tə.ˈlɜʉ̯.nʲɜ spɛ̝ɪ̯n ˈjʏː.ɹəʔp

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by ol bofosh » 11 Feb 2014 21:34

Pronouns in unstressed form could also be considered clitics.

See you ["si.j@]
get them [gE.4@m]
find him ["faIn.dIm]
And so on...

taylorS
greek
greek
Posts: 458
Joined: 12 Aug 2010 04:06
Location: Moorhead, MN, USA

Re: Are english articles prefixes?

Post by taylorS » 30 Mar 2014 05:28

They are clitics, the attach to whole phrases, not individual words.

Post Reply