The Free Dictionary  
mailing list For webmasters
Welcome Guest Forum Search | Active Topics | Members

about the articles (the, a(n), zero) Options
onsen
Posted: Saturday, December 09, 2017 4:34:34 AM
Rank: Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 80
Neurons: 2,160
Hello,

I’ve ever read in a book written by a native speaker that such words as the articles (the, a(n), zero) come first in the mind i.e. while the noun that follows hasn't yet been decided and then after having decided which article to use, come the (appropriate) nouns. I mean the procedure for thinking. Not vice versa.
Is it possible to choose one article from where there is nothing (= no nouns)?
And what the author wanted to say might be that the articles are not something that are added to nouns, but rather, nouns are added to the articles.
Are native speakers speaking or writing this way?

Thank you
Romany
Posted: Saturday, December 09, 2017 8:45:33 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 13,580
Neurons: 41,524
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Good heavens, no!

When you're speaking your own language, do you stop between everything you want to say or write, and think about the construction of what you are going to say? Seriously?

An English sentence is composed of subject, verb, object. We absorb that information when we are babies learning to speak. Every other part of speech, or phrase or clause, is added to that basic Subject Verb Object plan and as we grow we learn how to put all those things into a sentence.

Native speakers don't, any more, learn grammar. We learn to speak English by copying the people around us, not from textbooks. We use "patterns" not grammar rules.

If a tv crew were to go into the streets and ask native speakers what an "article" is, or to name a noun, or what a passive statement was, most people interviewed would be unsure or have no clue at all.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017 5:03:18 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 27,519
Neurons: 153,842
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
I agree with Romany.

I'll try to find the exact lesson - but the 'expert' on "BBC Learning English" website explained that the 'natural' way to speak was in "chunks of language".
These are phrases, not words.

A person 'gets a concept' - an idea. That concept would be probably "someone or something performing an action".
That whole concept is probably expressed in two or three phrases - and these phrases 'come to mind' at virtually the same time.

I would say that the noun and the article appear in the 'speech centre' of the mind together, as a unit, just after the whole 'sentence concept' is first thought.

I will add the link as an edition, when I find the whole lesson.

**************
EDITED to add:

I can't find the proper page - it was number five on this page but the link does not work for me.

A short part of the interview, and some of the comments have been transcribed in this PDF, and I've copied it below.

Quote:
When you listen to BBC World Service radio, there are probably phrases or groups of words which you hear
together all the time. For example, when announcers begin talking about a programme which is about to start, they
usually say ‘Coming up next is…’. In this situation,‘coming up next’ is a chunk of language – a phrase or group of
words which you hear together all the time. But why are chunks important for better speaking? First of all, have a
look at an extract from an interview with Icelandic singer, Bjork, talking about her albums ‘Debut’ and ‘Post’.
Quote:
I’ve always thought of Debut and Post as twins.They’re sort of before and after I learned to do things well.And I think
that after this I’ll move on to different sorts of things. But the concept with Debut and Post was that they were the
week in the life of a normal person and all the ups and downs you have – all the things you can’t plan. So that’s what
Debut and Post represent – that you can’t plan your life and you’re not supposed to. Just live life to the full and take it
as it comes.

Question a) What are the ideas which link Bjork’s albums Debut and Post?
Question b) Look at the groups of words which are underlined. Can you paraphrase them?

As you can see from Bjork’s interview, she is very comfortable speaking in English, although this is not her first
language. Most importantly, she uses the types of phrases or groups of words which make her sound natural.
When learning English, it’s very important to notice how words are often heard together. For example, Bjork says
she’ll do ‘different sorts of things’. In this context,‘sorts’ means the same as ‘types’ – but we would not usually say
‘different types of things’.This linking together of words is called collocation. So, we can say that ‘sorts of’ collocates
with
‘things’. There are no clear rules for making collocations but, by listening to English a lot, you will begin to hear
which words are usually found together.
Very often, you will hear whole phrases which are repeated often within a single situation.You can see examples
in Bjork’s interview – ‘take it as it comes’ and ‘live life to the full’ are examples of phrases that have a fixed meaning.
We understand the meaning of the phrase from the context in which we heard it, not by analysing each word.
These fixed phrases or chunks are useful because, when we use them, we do not need to build each sentence word
by word. By learning and using useful chunks of language you can begin to sound more fluent.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
thar
Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017 5:32:48 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 16,348
Neurons: 65,411
I agree that you know whether you are talking about something definite or indefinite, and then separately you locate the exact vocabulary word you mean.

eg
I saw a.... a... what is it called?...... I saw an elephant.

Starting that sentence, I know I am talking about something unspecific, not specific. I might then just have to look somewhere else for the exact noun. Until I come up with that word, which happens to start with a vowel sound, I know I need the indefinite article - but I don't yet know I need 'an' not 'a'.


compared to
I saw the.... the... the... what is it called?...... the elephant that escaped from the zoo yesterday.

I know when I start that sentence that I am talking about something specific, the one that escaped from the zoo. So I know it is a definite article - but again I might have to take a moment to remember the exact word I want.

If this is what happens on those occasions when the noun isn't instantly available, it makes sense to me that it is happening on all other occasions as well - we are just normally more efficient at retrieving the noun, so you don't notice the order of construction.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017 5:39:18 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 27,519
Neurons: 153,842
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
That's true.

If the noun isn't immediately there in your mind, you do know (from the 'sentence concept') that it must be indefinite or definite (or 'mass' requiring no article).

I would say, though, that usually both the article and the noun 'appear' in mind together.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
onsen
Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017 8:32:10 AM
Rank: Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 80
Neurons: 2,160
Thank you very much for the explanation so far.
I’d like to introduce the part in question from the book, in the near future.
Romany
Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017 11:55:11 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 13,580
Neurons: 41,524
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Drago, I was pondering on what you said: -

I think that from the time we first hear sounds and start to understand the meaning of sounds, we hear that many words start with the same sound: "the". We don't know it's an article but we know "thafloor", "thadog", "thakeys". I think we absorb "the" with the language at a very early stage. From that we seem to find the fact that there are words which start with "some" not too difficult:"sumsweeties", "sumkisses" etc.

We hear "grammar" before we can read. ESL learners do it the other way round!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 8:09:04 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 27,519
Neurons: 153,842
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Romany wrote:
We hear "grammar" before we can read. ESL learners do it the other way round!

Hi!

I think that this is what upsets or confuses people - especially those who have reached the point of understanding "fairly well". It's not so bad for the real beginners, because they don't see what's wrong.

Natives don't speak "learned grammar" they speak "heard grammar".

When this is written, it seems completely crazy sometimes.
Some native speakers just never get past the "gonna" and "could of" stage - saying and writing what they hear.

Mass nouns are quite easy for children, too.

Chocolate! Cake!
Want ice-cream!

I guess this is why it seems so "natural" for some nouns to generally be 'indefinite' and others to be 'definite'.

Anapple
Thedog
thesky
atree

It's just the way we heard the words when very young.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 9:16:30 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/21/2009
Posts: 40,416
Neurons: 323,602
Location: Helsinki, Southern Finland Province, Finland
I learned my English exactly the same way; hearing, reading, and speaking. The same way I learned Finnish.
In school we learned some grammar. There were exams, so you had to learn some. But that was not the thing.
In my graduation exams I wrote two essays (in Finnish and in English) with highest points.


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
onsen
Posted: Saturday, December 16, 2017 10:54:26 AM
Rank: Member

Joined: 9/14/2017
Posts: 80
Neurons: 2,160
Hello,

I would like to introduce an excerpt from a book written by Mark Petersen, specialty in modern Japanese literature, professor at Meiji University in Tokyo.
The original text is in Japanese.

Quote:
2 I ate a chicken
The indefinite article

a is not something like accessories.
The other day I received a letter from a Japanese friend studying in U.S.A. From the letter came out the following sentence suddenly.
Last night, I ate a chicken in the backyard.

I had mixed feelings about it. Though it’s difficult to explain in Japanese, what I felt was just I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, in a suitable English phrase.

I deciphered it as merely meaning that the friend ate chicken at an ordinary American-way backyard chicken barbecue, i.e. I ate chicken, but not I ate a chicken. To my surprise, the sentence Last night, I ate a chicken in the backyard. might as well be a masterpiece regardless of its correctness. If it’s read as a correct one, it will be understood as a simple and vivid and persuasive expression. In the dark backyard late at night, the friend with a smile on the lips covered in blood and feathers strokes the swelling belly with satisfaction. I can picture such a lively scene.

Few sentences are better example ones which can show what changes occur in meaning with the indefinite article or without it.

Customarily Japanese grammar books deal with this problem as whether the indefinite article is added to the noun or not. But this idea is unrealistic and invites misunderstanding. For native speakers, the expression 'add a to the noun' is meaningless. When speaking in English ― including writing or thinking ― a or the non-existence of a, but not the noun, decides in a preceding manner the category related to meaning. The next step is to choose the noun suitable to the category. There is only one way of saying when using the word 'add', i.e. to add the noun to a. The idea 'add a to the noun', in fact, doesn’t exist in the language of English.

For example, my reference books used to look up the Japanese terms of English grammar explain 'The indefinite article is added to the noun which refers to concrete and individual things. Consequently singular common nouns take the indefinite article except in special cases.', and quoting a sentence from a novel by Charles Dickens illustrate the rules of the indefinite article.
He applied himself to a second glass of the old Madeira, with increased relish.
This kind of explanation makes us think as if a (an) were something 'rightly' added just like accessories to the noun which already earned its place and had its exact meaning.

But the truth is the opposite. The thing which already had its exact meaning is not the glass in 'a second glass of the old Madeira', but the a. And the meaning of the noun glass is decided by 'being added' to the indefinite article a. Or depending on context, 'the glass' means the glass in question, "glass" without the article means a material.

This can be clearly understood by pondering on the order of the thinking process of a case like I ate a chicken. If the thing you want to convey as what you ate is something which has a particular form and unit, you will seek nouns, repeating a and remembering as "I ate a…a…a hot dog!" (or a sandwich, a rice ball, etc.) If what you want to convey as what you ate is something which has not a particular form and unit or is a thing like materials, you might probably remember and say "I ate…uh…uh…meat!" (or French bread, rice, etc.) ("uh" is the sound produced by native speakers when they are thinking.)
In short, a (its existence or non-existence) is the basis of the logical process and not something like accessories added to nouns.
The practice seems quite strange that 'usage of the articles' is explained as 'The articles are not added to nouns of this type.' or 'add the articles to … ' like fashion rules, as if somebody deliberately decided 'the right way of addition'.
..............
omitted
..............
Avoiding the unrealistic idea of adding the articles to nouns will greatly improve your English.
Returning to the example of "a chicken", if you keep in mind that a precedes chicken, you won’t make a mistake in such a matter as which one 'is being added' to which other one. After all, the difference between a chicken and chicken is not simply the addition of the decoration a, but lies in the fact that a chicken has its different and own meaning from chicken.
..............
omitted
..............

notes by the poster:
in bold letters:
as in the original text
in blue:
as in the original text, not translated
(translated from English as spoken or written by the Japanese, by Mark Petersen)

Users browsing this topic
Guest


Forum Jump
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.

Main Forum RSS : RSS
Forum Terms and Guidelines. Copyright © 2008-2018 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.