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Life on a Desert Island



The system of English articles present a specific semiotic system which is meant to express a specific grammatical category of the noun based on the opposition of abstarction and specification. With the exception of uncount nouns, each name, proper or common, abstract or concrete may vary in terms of article use, thus indication various degrees of abstarction/specification. This can be accounted for by the innate mental ability of English-speaking people to classify, individualize concepts denoted by nouns, or take take them in the most abstract sense. The results of these mental operations are represented in speech by the zero, indefinite, and definite article forms of nouns respectively.

Normally, abstraction and classification are followed by individualization as a final stage of a cognitive process. This is revealed in the general order of the articles’ use: the forms with the definite article is to occur after its referent has been introduced by means of the form with the indefinite article (count) or with the zero article (uncount). The rule is explicitly described and recommended to go by in grammar books. However, the order article forms of nouns may vary, for the noun referent can be classified or taken in the most abstract way even after it has been identified. This is usually done to lay a special emphasis on a concept and can be most useful in imaginative writing, as the author often aims at producing an impact on the reader. Thus, the semiotic functions of the article in English turn out to be perfectly complemented by their stylistic functioning.

1. Determiner is a means of reference to the thing-meant denoted by a noun, i.e. a word that limits the meaning of a noun and comes before adjectives that describe the same noun. Determiners include the articles and pronouns.


2. See Jespersen O. Language. Its Nature, Development and Origin. London. 1949.


3. Of these 3 it is the grammatical juxtaposition of countable nouns and uncountable nouns which is relevant as to the article determination, because uncountable nouns have a limitation: they cannot be used with the indefinite article. The other two divisions of nouns are purely lexical and, therefore less rigorous. Both common and proper, concrete and abstract can be either countable or uncountable depending on meaning.


4. For details see: Murphy R. English Grammar in Use. Cambridge University Press, 1985. Hewings M. Advanced Grammar in Use. Camb. Univ. Press. 1999. Vince M. Advanced Language Practice. Macmillan Heinemann. 1994; Alexander L.G. Longman Advanced Grammar. Reference and Practice. Longman. 1993.


5. See: Quirk R., Greenbaum S. A Concise Grammar of Contemporary English. London. 1973. P. 147-165; Biber D., Johansson S., Conrad S., Finegan E. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Longman. 1999. P. 232-266.


6. See. P. Biber D., Johansson S., Conrad S., Finegan E. Longman Grammar Of Spoken and Written English. Longman, 1999. P. 264-266.


7. See Quirk R., Greenbaum S. A Concise Grammar of Contemporary English. London. 1973. P. 71.


8. See Смирницкий А.И. Морфология английского языка. М., 1959. С. 380-386; Александрова О.В., Комова Т.А. Современный английский язык: Морфология и Синтаксис. М., 1998.

9. Another manifestation of the category of deixis is pronouns. Although both the articles and pronouns, mainly demonstrative and indefinite ones, determine nouns, they do so differently. Whereas the function of the article is to specify nouns in the most general way, the demonstrative pronouns this/that, these/those and the indefinite pronouns some and any are used to define persons, things or notions denoted by nouns in relation to other persons, things or notions, their function being to present a noun in a more detailed way, with a higher degree of certainty. Compare:

A man called in while you were out. (Not a woman) - Some man/some men called in while you were out. (A man/men strange to me)

Have an apple. (Not an orange) – Have any apple you like. (Every apple, no matter which one)

Will you give me the pen? (Which is mentioned and understood by both speakers) - Will you give me this pen? (The one I am pointing to)

Note that the use of the demonstrative pronouns is arbitrary though in most cases the definite article is more idiomatic. The use of the indefinite pronouns is arbitrary in the case they are to define count nouns both in the singular and plural. Their use may be obligatory if they are referred count and uncount nouns in the plural. For example:

There is some butter in the fridge. There isn’t any jam in the cupboard. Have you got any money? (Uncount nouns) There are some books on the shelf. There aren’t any nails in the box. (Count nouns)


10. Маслов Ю.С. Введение в языкознание. М., 1987. Никитин М.В. Категория артикля в английском языке. Фрунзе, 1961. Bloch M.Y. A Course in Theoretical English Grammar. Moscow. 1983. P. 74-85.


10. Longman Dictionary of Language and Culture. Longman, 2000. Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners. Macmillan, 2002. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary Oxford University Press. 2005.


11. The definition is taken from: P. Biber D., Johansson S., Conrad S., Finegan E. Longman Grammar Of Spoken and Written English. Longman. 1999. P. 262.


12. Situational reference as a type of specific reference implies the use of the definite article before noun whose reference is immediately understood by the users of the language. Such words as sun, moon, earth, sky, air are described as unique. For details see Quirk R. Greenbaum S. A Concise Grammar of Contemporary English. London, 1982. P. 155-156.


13. Metonymy – a trope in which the name of one thing is used in place of that of another, closely related to it, for instance: a) the attribute for the thing-meant: “crown” for “king”; b) the effect for the cause: “bottle” for “drink”; c) the material for the object made of it: “silk” for “dress”; d) the author for his work: “Hemingway” for a book written by Hemingway”, etc. The definition is taken from: Задорнова В.Я. Стилистика английского языка. М., МГУ, 1986. С. 11.


14. The definitions are taken from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd edition, Houghton Mifflin (1992), hardcover, 2140 pages, ISBN 0395448956 Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstraction"; Философский энциклопедический словарь. М., 2001. С. 8.



15. The word truth can also be used in a narrowed sense to denote a fact or principle as true or for which proof exists, and thus be determined by the indefinite article:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (J. Austen)

There’s a moral truth about the best literature that can tell us more about humanity that the most detailed and carefully researched history or biography. (A. McLean)


16. In such cases the indefinite article is said to have a quantitative meaning. See: Жигадло В. Н., Иванова И. П., Иофик Л.Л. Современный английский язык. Теоретический курс. М. 1956. С. 222.


17. See P. Biber D., Johansson S., Conrad S., Finegan E. Longman Grammar Of Spoken and Written English. Longman. 1999. P. 263.


18. Ibid. P. 263.


19. Ibid. P. 264.


20. Антономазия – 1. Обозначение лица словом, имеющим отвлеченное значение свойственного или приписываемого данному лицу качества (ср. эвфемизм: (le malin – le demon, черт, дьявол - нечистый). 2. Троп, состоящий в метафорическом применении собственного имени для обозначения лица, наделенного свойствами первоначального (широко известного по литературе, истории и т.п.) носителя этого имени (Отелло вм. ревнивец, Дон–Жуан вм. сластолюбец) 3. Фигура речи, состоящая в описательном обозначении лица (побежденный при Ватерлоо вм. Наполеон). См. Ахманова О.С. Словарь лингвистических терминов. М. 1966. С. 50.

21. See Смирницкий А.И. Морфология английского языка. М.1959. С. 385-386. Соболев И.П. Некоторые аспекты теории и нормы безартиклевых форм существительного в современном английском языке: Автореф. дисс…канд. филол. наук. М. 1973. С. 15-23.


22. For details see: Долгина Е.А. Краткая грамматика английского языка. М. 2000. C. 150-151.



Supply the missing articles in the texts below:


Beyond the Blue Mountains

Myra and George Purbeck, aboard …. Empress of Sydney, rode through …. Hawkesbury River valley. …. Empress of Sydney was …. coach, of …. extravagance that neither had ever before experienced, …. double-decker with ….picture windows of ….tinted glass, ….luxuriantly upholstered seating and …. small tilted movie screens lest …. voyager should weary of …. landscape. From ….time to ….time …. stewardess plied them with ….coffee or ….freshly squeezed orange juice. …. air-conditioning was just right; …. restful and uninsistent background music was interrupted periodically by …. voice which delivered …. laconic, informative and sometimes witty account of …. passing scene. They had been given …. run-down of …. social composition of suburban Sydney, with …. digression on ….architectural style. They had learned about …. crops grown in …. farmland through which they now passed and about …. breeds of ….cattle and of ….sheep. “Look left and you’ll see ….three black swans on …. billabong. …. black swan is native to Australia.” Myra listened with ….interest.

She said, ‘Is it …. driver who does this commentary, do you imagine?’

‘Presumably.’ George was reading – intermittently – …. copy of …. London Financial Times. He was also, of course, gathering ….strength for …. next leg of …. exacting business trip. It was Sunday. …. coach trip was for Myra’s benefit: …. kindly indulgence.

In Sydney, while George performed …business, she had wandered, at first jet-lagged and punch-drunk. She felt as though she had stepped into …. alternative universe. ….birds that flew in …garden of their hotel were …little parrots, she saw with …astonishment. …trees and shrubs were eerie and beautiful developments of familiar trees and shrubs. The very air seemed different. Then she had gone into …art gallery and seen on …walls …further miraculous transformation of … known world. ….paintings showed … brilliant landscape, vibrant with …colour – blues and golds and …bright ochre, … place of …rock and …dust and …tree that was vast, bold and disturbing. Some of … pictures were of ….forest scenes – they depicted …dappled light, ….sparkling water and …exuberant growth. In one, ….aborigine family camped around …fire in …clearing. ….wallabies grazed, …trees were roped with flowering vines, …shafts of …light fell on …emerald grass. Myra gazed in …fascination; … words she did not normally use flew into her head - …glade, …arcadian glade. Emerging once more into …heat and sunshine of … city, she was elated. … jet-lag faded. She began to feel alert and well.

The coach began to climb. They had left ….farmland behind and were entering ….foothills of …Blue Mountains, explained …invisible commentator, are thus named because of …sun’s effect on…haze of …oil vapour given off by …eucalyptus trees. At ….beginning of …nineteenth century they formed …impenetrable barrier between ….expanding settlement and …hinterland beyond, until …pioneering expedition of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813, which led to …construction within six months of ….first road through …mountains by …hand-picked convict labourers.

….coach was sparsely populated. Up here on ….top deck there were ….six immaculately suited Japanese who sat together in …cluster, ….couple of ….backpacking American girls and ….waste of …empty seats. ….commentator began to talk about …..flora and ….fauna. He told ….passengers to look for ….tree-ferns, for ….casuarinas and for sulphur-crested cockatoos. When they reached ….viewpoint and ….revolving restaurant they must take ….stroll and listen for ….bellbirds. If anyone had any questions feel free to hand … note to …stewardess.

Beyond the Blue Mountains by P. Lively (BrE)


….. weeks that followed were unremittingly hot and dry. We seemed to have entered …. new phase of ….weather. There were no longer ….grey clouds gliding by to taunt us with ….unreliable promises of ….rain. ….. magnesium flare dazzle of …. sun hovered in …. pricking blue of …. sky like …. vapour of …. burning breath. …. hours of ….cool, after ….dawn and before ….sunset, seemed shorter and shorter. …. dry heat brought ….sounds of its own to …. quiet interior.…brittle branches crumbled off ….trees with …. softest brush of …. shoulder and fell in ….powdery lumps among ….paper-dry grasses. Petrified streamers of ….heat-faded leaves detached themselves from …. moistureless sockets and crackled like ….Christmas wrapping paper as they broke on …. baked ground. ….footsteps through …. rustling tissues of …. dying undergrowth were loud. Daily it became easier to see through to …. blue distance on …. other side of …. island as …. trees sloughed off their bleached foliage. …. colours, russets, ochres, bronze, reminded me of ….autumn, but here ….death came from …. sun and there was no rich, dark winter to come.

G wrestled with … lifeless soil. Deeper and deeper he went, pocking …. surface of …. island with …. waterless wells. ….spindly vegetable shoots that had come through so eagerly fell like pieces of straw, there was nothing to hold their roots in …. earth. Older plants, like ….tomatoes and ….sweetcorn, stayed upright, electing to die on their feet. ….recently planted bed of ….kohlrabi, ….tiny purple leaves just formed, stayed two inches high for ….weeks on ….end and then died as ….body. It was …struggle without ….hope and yet we hoped all …..time.

Castaway by Lucy Irvine (BrE)


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