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The Indefinite Article

The article and its stylistic potential

The category of determination / indeterminationexpressed by the ar­ticles can be relevant for stylistic morphology. The article may be a very expressive element of narration especially when used with proper names which normally require no article.

The indefinite article with a family name in the singular points to a representative of some family with either bad or good reputation. It carries either positive or negative connotations depending on the context e.g.: I'm a Marlow by birth, and we are a hot-blooded family (Follett); I'm not a Dombey.

The indefinite article with a family name in the singular may be charged with a negative evaluative connotation and diminish the importance of somebody's personality, diminish the person's status, make it sound insignificant, e.g.: Besides Rain, Nan and Mrs Prewett, there was a Mrs Kingsley, the wife of one of the governors; I will never marry a Malone or a Sykes (Ch. Bronte); He was engaged to a Miss Hubbard; a Mr Brown, a Smith (некий, некто— such use is frequent in colloquial speech).

The indefinite article with a proper name in the singular can be employed metonymically — to refer to the work produced by an artist (by the bearer of the name), e.g.: I have bought a Rembrandt recently (a case of metonymic antonomasia).

The indefinite article with a proper name in the singular may convey metaphorical evaluative connotation, e.g.: I do not consider myself to be a Leonardo da Vinci (я не рисую как Леонардо (a case of metaphoric antonomasia)).

The indefinite article with a proper name in the singular may point to a person as being very significant, e.g.: There was a Shakespeare (somebody possessing the same talent (metaphoric antonomasia)).

The indefinite article used with the proper name of a literary character refers to a person having the features similar to those of the bookish character mentioned, e.g.: Why, you are quite a Monte Christo (metaphoric antonomasia).


The Definite Article

The definite article is normally used with a family name in the plural to refer to the whole family: the Johnsons.

The definite article used with a proper name in the singular may become a powerful expressive means to particularize the person, to emphasize his good or bad qualities, to show that the person is famous or notorious. In the sentence "You are not the Andrew Manson I married" (Cronin) the definite article embodies all the good qualities that A. Manson used to have and lost in the eyes of his wife.

The definite article may serve as an intensifier of the epithet used in the character's description: I was pointed out for the rest of my visit as the mad Englishman (Atkinson).

The proper noun used with the definite article may function as the common one, pointing to features similar to those of a person mentioned: Mozart has been called the Raphael of music (metaphoric antonomasia).

In case of enumeration the article is usually placed before the 1st word of the group, but it may be employed with every word in order to attach significance to these words and to emphasize them. The use of definite articles with common nouns in enumeration (as well as the absence of articles) helps to create a certain rhythm of the narration and contributes to the stylistic device of gradation: Her thoughts went down the lane towards the field, the hedge, the trees — oak, beech, elm (G. Greene).

The definite article with a common noun may point to a certain person, not named explicitly but implied by the context: The witch shall die, Antony said (meaning Cleopatra).

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