User:DCDuring/English determiners

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A word class and a function class[edit]

Determiners are defined in general-use dictionaries as "a word that limits (determines) the meaning of a noun and comes before adjectives that describe the noun".[1]. In linguistics (syntax or grammar) they are defined as a set of grammatical functions or a member of a word class that primarily takes on those functions.

Examples of typical words that fulfill determiner functions are:

a, the; this, that, these, those; we, you; all, both; each, every; some, any; one (1), two (2), [] ; either, neither; no; another; a few, a little, several; few, little, many, much; enough, sufficient; which, what, whichever, whatever

Note that many of these are placed in other word classes, especially in traditional grammar which does not have determiner as a distinct class: a and the in articles; we and you in pronouns; 1, 2, [] in numbers or numeral or cardinal numbers; others in both adjectives and pronouns. In addition to these there are other types of words that fulfill the determiner function, such as possessive nouns (Donalds's) and pronouns (my). At Wiktionary, for English, we reserve the heading Determiner for words fulfilling the determiner function that are not articles, numerals, and possessives.

Basic grammatical function[edit]

The basic grammatical function of determiners is to convert a bare noun expression, such as red car or power plant into a noun phrase ("NP"). Bare noun expressions cannot be NPs otherwise, except in restricted circumstances. Numerals greater than one, these, those, we, you both, a few, several, few, many are used only with plural nouns. The numeral 1, one, a, either, neither, another are used with countable singular nouns. A little and much are only used with uncountable nouns. The others can be used with more than one type of noun (or NP). One characteristic that all words fulfilling a determiner function is that they must precede any adjective modifying the noun in an NP.

Placement in noun phrases[edit]

In English the determiner word class is identifiable and distinct because of the placement of the determiner in a noun phrase. For example, consider:

all those overpaid investment bankers in offices on Wall Street too

All and those are determiners. Moving them to any other location in the noun phrase headed by bankers/investment bankers either makes the phrase ungrammatical or changes its meaning. Furthermore, all must precede the rest of the NP. Other determiners can be substituted for the ones in the example. For example, both for all and the, these, we/us, you for those. Possessives can also substitute for those, eg, my, George's. No typical adjective can precede those or all. Any word that some might call an adjective that shares the behavior of all or those can probably be more effectively analyzed and presented as a determiner.

Traditional grammar[edit]

In traditional grammar [] . Every member of certain classes of word can function as a determiner [example needed]. Some individual words that are often thought of as being in other word classes also behave like determiners in some of their uses. [examples needed] There are compound determiners, consisting of two or more words, that have similar function.

Determiner functions[edit]

In most uses nouns and units consisting of adjective(s) and noun(s) ("nominals") require words fulfilling a determinative function to become noun phrases ("NP"s) usable in clauses, prepositional phrases, and other grammatical structures. Generally a noun is the head of a noun phrase. Determinative functions specify the scope of the nominals in the NP.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, New Edition (1987)