Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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6.7. Definite/indefinite noun phrases

In English and in Classical Greek the article is one of the means which may serve to distinguish between `definite' and `indifinite' NPs. Examples from English are (92a) and (92b), respectively:

(92a) John has bought the house

(92b) John has bought a house

The presence of the definite article the in (92a) makes clear that the speaker is referring to one specific house and assumes that the hearer knows which house is concerned, or, at least, that he is able to identify it. In (92b) this presupposition is absent. [43] As is well-known, Classical Latin does not have an article. The Romance languages do have articles, derived from some Latin pronouns (ille, ipse) and the numeral unus. Also in Classical Latin texts there are instances which are cited as examples of the use of unus as indefinite article. One of these is (93):

(93) (mihi) qui sicut unus pater familias his de rebus loquor (`I, who speak about these matters as a father', Cic. de Orat. 1.132)

We cannot yet, however, speak of articles in the strict sense of the term. For details on the historical development see Sz. 191–4. [44] In spite of the absence of the definite and indefinite articles, in the Latin texts it is in a very large number of cases clear whether an NP is definite or indefinite.

(i) First of all, there are nouns of which under normal circumstances only one specimen exists, so that identification of the referent is obvious. Consider, for instance, a word like sol, which for the Romans was obviously `the sun'. Proper names, too, mostly refer to only one person, as do personal pronouns of the first and second persons.

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(ii) An example of a second type of instance is (94):

(94) pater Marci Tullii Ciceronis (`The father of M. Tullius Cicero')

In itself pater can mean both `the father' and `a father', but the genitive Attribute makes clear who is concerned.

(iii) A third type of case in which the thing or person referred to by the speaker/writer is unambiguously clear is illustrated by (95):

(95) Agrippam Postumum …, rudem … bonarum artium et robore corporis stolide ferocem … (`Agrippa Postumus, a man without any cultural sophistication and in a dull-witted way proud of his physical force', Tac. Ann. 1.3.4)

The body mentioned in the text could not easily be another body than that of Agrippa Postumus. Cf. also English cases like (96):

(96) John has bought a house. The roof needs repair, but in general everything is in excellent condition.

As soon as the word house has been introduced into the discourse, related matters are automatically referred to the house (`associative anaphora'). In the instances discussed under (i) and (ii) Latin uses no explicit definiteness marker, and yet the referent may be identified without any problem. In many of these cases English and Greek use the definite article. [45]

(iv) Latin does have means other than a definite article which may serve to indicate explicitly who/what the reader/hearer is supposed to be able to identify, viz. the demonstrative pronouns ille, iste, hic and the anaphoric pronoun is. As in English and other languages, the former type of pronoun can be used both deictically and anaphorically. We speak of deictic use if in a certain situation something is pointed out, e.g. during a meal: [46]

(97) Could you pass me that pâté, please?

The addressee is supposed to see which of the pâtés present in the situation is meant by the speaker. A neat example of deictically used ille is (98):

(98) agedum, pulta illas fores (`Come on, knock at that door', Pl. Cist. 637)

By anaphoric use we understand the use of pronouns in a coherent context, e.g. to refer to something which has already been mentioned:

(99) There was a book on the table. This book formed part of a collection …

As appears from example (97), the fundamental difference between a deictic/anaphoric pronoun and a definite article is that, when using a definite article, a speaker supposes (correctly or incorrectly) that his description fits only one person or thing, while the use of a deictic/anaphoric pronoun in

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principle presupposes a certain degree of choice: there are several pâtés (or possibly several dishes).


(97a) Could you pass me thát pâté?

(97b) Could you pass me that pâté?

(97c) Could you pass me the pâté?

In coherent texts this opposition between deictic/anaphoric pronoun and definite article is not always completely clear, cf. above (97b) and (97c). This provides an explanation for the diachronic relationship between such pronouns and articles, which we find in many languages. An instance from Cicero is (100):

(100) nam et illud nobis non obest, videri nostrum testimonium non valuisse; missus est sanguis invidiae sine dolore, atque etiam hoc magis quod omnes illi fautores illius flagitii rem manifestam illam redemptam esse a iudicibus confitentur. Accedit illud, quod illa contionalis hirudo aerari … me ab hoc Magno unice diligi putat (`That my testimony was not accepted does me no harm; my unpopularity has been tapped like a dropsy and painlessly reduced, and another thing has done me even more good: the supporters of that crime confess that that open scandal was due to bribery. Besides, that bloodsucker of the treasury thinks I am a prime favourite with the "great man" Pompey', Cic. Att. 1.16.11)

The italicized pronouns do not have a clear deictic/anaphoric function; rather, they serve to express Cicero's contempt and anger.

From what has been said above we may conclude the following: the distinction `definite': `indefinite' cannot be equated to the presence or absence of articles. `Definiteness' may also be indicated by other means. For Latin further research is required, e.g. into word order, frequency of anaphoric pronouns, etc. [47] Incidentally, this discussion on definiteness to some extent forms part of the exposition on textual coherence, to which I return in chapter 12.

There is a difference between `definiteness' and `specificity'. [48] A well-known example is:

(101) Mary wants to marry a Norwegian

This can be interpreted as:

(101') Mary wants to marry any Norwegian

(101'') Mary wants to marry a particular Norwegian

Latin has pronouns which the grammars call `indefinite', e.g. quidam and aliqui. Of these, quidam presupposes that the speaker has a certain person or thing in mind, without assuming that the hearer knows who or what is concerned (or: feigning to assume that the hearer does not know, as in cases

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like (101')). This presupposition need not be present in the case of aliqui; in other words, aliqui can also be `non-specific'. Both quidam and aliqui differ from the English indefinite article: cf. the examples in note 29. 48a

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Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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