Kyiv National Linguistic University
Department of Grammar and History of English
The Problem of the Definite Article in the English Language
Department of Germanic Philology
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………........3 CHAPTER ONE. THE PROBLEM OF THE ARTICLE DEFINITION……..4
1.1. Approaches to describe the notion of the article……………………..4 1.2. The nature of the article ………..…………………………….………….7
1.3.Theories of definiteness explanation……………………………………...9
1. Familiarity theory……………………………………..…………9 2. Identifiability theory……………………………………………..9 3. Uniqueness theory……………………………………………...10 4. Inclusiveness theory……………………………………………10 5. Anaphoric Definites and Generics……………………………..11 6. Discourse Semantics…………………………………………...13 7. Relevance theory……………………………………………….14 Conclusions to Chapter One ………………………………………………..…..16 CHAPTER TWO. THE USAGE OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE ………….17 2.1. General rules of the definite article usage…………………………...……17 2.2. Special cases of definite article usage …………………….………….…20 2.2.1. The definite article with geographical names …........................26 2.2.2. The definite article with proper nouns ………………….……..29 2.2.3. The definite article with names of buildings and institutions….30 2.2.4. The use of the article with the names of newspapers, periodicals and sporting events………………………………………………………………..31 2.2.5. The usage of the definite article with the names of festivals, organizations, political institutions, languages, months and days………………...32 Conclusions to Chapter Two ………………………………………………..….39 GENERAL CONCLUSIONS …………………………………………………..40 RÉSUMÉ ……………………………………………………………………... 41 LITERATURE CITED ……………………………………………………… 42 LIST OF REFERENCE MATERIALS ……………………………………. 43
This course paper was conducted to make a research in order to definite the problems of the article itself and its usage in the English language that Slavic people, whose languages are deprived of the article, usually encounter to. Some grammarians consider the article to be a kind of morpheme, another differentiate it as a separate part of speech. The absence of the article is accordingly referred to as “zero article” applied in inflected languages to certain forms of having no grammatical endings and thus differing from such forms of the same word as have their own endings. This statement is open to question and not in every sense valid. It seems more in accordance with the nature of the language to identify the English article as a typical morphological category, a special function word used as an overt marker of the noun and contributing to its meaning. It is worthy of note that for English, being an analytical language, the notion of article is of primary importance because only in such a way the idea of definiteness/ indefiniteness may be expressed. The aim of work is to investigate how and where to use the article, its features and complications of the usage. The theoretical value of the research lies in systematization of the definite article usage in the English language. The practical value of the course paper is using the conclusions, statements, materials, vivid examples can be used either for the teaching process at the university and practical classes in the theoretical course of English and general linguistic or for certain educational theoretical working up in English grammar for students of specialized departments. The object is the definite article in the English language itself. The subject is the use of the definite article in the English language in general and some special cases in particular
THE PROBLEM OF THE ARTICLE DEFINITION
1.1. Approaches to describe the notion of the article
It is a common knowledge that the English language is an analytic (or "isolating"), thus, this is the languages that shows a low ratio of morphemes to words; in fact, the correspondence is nearly one-to-one. Sentences in analytic languages are composed of independent root morphemes. Grammatical relations between words are expressed by separate words where they might otherwise be expressed by affixes, which are present to a minimal degree in such languages. There is little to no morphological change in words: they tend to be uninflected. Grammatical categories are indicated by word order (for example, inversion of verb and subject for interrogative sentences) or by bringing in additional words (for example, a word for "some" or "many" instead of a plural inflection like English -s). Individual words carry a general meaning (root concept); nuances are expressed by other words. Finally, in analytic languages context and syntax are more important than morphology. That’s why the notion of article is of primary importance. Nevertheless, the article presents the students with one of the most difficult and intricate problems of language structure. Although a great number of philologists have treated the article both in English and in other languages, it will be only fair to say that even the most essential points concerning the theory of the article still remain doubtful. In embarking now on a study of the Modern English article, we should first of all eliminate those problems which are of no real scientific interest, though they have been occasionally discussed. Thus, we will not dwell on the problem whether the article is a separate part of speech, since neither an affirmative nor a negative answer would in any way affect the really relevant questions concerning the article. Another problem, which, though not relevant, appears to have been frequently misstated, is this: is the article a word or a morpheme? It has been solved in different ways by different authors. There would always be some arguments in favor of the article being a separate word, and some argument to show that this is a morpheme. This kind of approach, however, does not seem to be the right one. It would mean that we start examining the article, a very peculiar phenomenon, with ready-made notions of what a word and what a morpheme is. Instead we should first study the article as it actually exists and functions in the language, and only then see whether it will fit into any ready-made category. It may well happen that it will not; then we shall have to face the situation and take it for what it is worth. With respect to the article we must state, in the first place, that there are languages which have no article. Russian and most other Slavonic languages, the Latin language belongs here. Furthermore, it has been a long debated question how many articles are there in English. Obviously there are only two material articles, the definite article the and the indefinite article a/ an. The older grammatical tradition also investigates that the article can be omitted. Which is considered to be inadequate because another view is that we should describe this as “absence of the article”, and sometimes this notion is made more precise and the phenomenon is called “meaningful absence of article”. A third view, which has been gaining ground lately, is that the very absence of the article is a special kind of article, which is then termed “zero article”. [illish;49]. Moreover, in structural grammars the article is often dispensed with as a separate part of speech and absorbed into the adjective class. The absence of the article is accordingly referred to as “zero-morpheme” applied in inflected languages to certain forms having no grammatical endings and thus differing from such forms of the same word as have their own endings. This statement is opened to question and not in every sense valid. It seems more in accordance with the nature of language to identify the English article as a typical morphological category, a special function-word used as an overt marker of the noun and contributing to its meaning. The practice prevalent in English grammars is to describe the multifarious use of the article with different classes of nouns. Reference is generally made to its particularizing, generalizing, defining, descriptive and other functions as well as traditional idiomatic use [rayevska;84]. For better or for worse, English is blessed with articles. This causes a considerable amount of confusion for speakers of most of the world's other languages, who seem to get on rather well without them. The good news is that English began dropping the complex case systems and grammatical genders still prevalent in other European languages a very long time ago. Now we are left with just two forms of the indefinite article (a /an) and one form of the definite article (the). Perhaps more than anything it is the transition from being a language with synthetic structure to one which is more analytic that has helped gain English the kind of unrivalled worldwide acceptance it enjoys today. Although greatly simplified, English article usage still poses a number of challenges to speakers of other European languages. Let's compare the German sentence "Da er Botaniker ist, liebt er die Natur" with the corresponding English one "Being a botanist, he is fond of nature". You'll see that English puts an indefinite article in front of a profession but German doesn't. Conversely, English manages without articles in front of abstract nouns like nature, where German needs a definite article.
1.2. The nature of the article
According to Martin Newsongs the article is a form of word that serves a noun determiner. It is one of the main means of conveying the idea of definiteness and indefiniteness. There are two articles in the English language: the definite article “the”, which is modified form of an older demonstrative that, and the indefinite article “a/ an”, modified forms of the word one [volkova]. Their main meanings are definiteness and indefiniteness. Definiteness suggests that the object presented by the following noun is individualized and singled out from all the other objects of the same kind, whereas indefiniteness means a more general reference to an object. Thus, when saying The book is a historical novel or The boy has a dog or The telephone is out of order, the speaker treats the objects book, boy, telephone as specific objects, while a dog, a historical novel the speaker characterizes the objects in a more general way, pointing out what kind of novel the book is and what kind of pet animal the boy has [1;78]. So the articles of English serve the function of determining or pointing out the particularized or generalized nature or aspect of the meaning of the nouns or words they modify [vlkova]. It is a common knowledge that the article is a function word, which means it has no lexical meaning and is devoid of nominative function. Semantically the article can be viewed as a linguistic unit representing some conceptual content without naming it. If analyzed in its relation to the conceptual reality, the article proves to be an operator, i.e. a marker of some cognitive operation, like identification, classification, and the like [ volkova]. The notion of definiteness/ indefiniteness determines the important role of the article in the process of communication. The definite article usually presents the notion as something already familiar before, whereas the indefinite article introduces a new item of information. The presentation of objects as definite or indefinite, as already known or as new, depends on the speaker or writer, who by using articles establishes mutual understanding between the speaker or the listener, the writer or the reader [2;35]. Since the article is a noun determiner and the noun is the head-word in a noun phrase, the syntactical role of the article consists of making a noun or a noun phrase as part of the sentence [1;80]. A noun in the subject position is usually preceded be the definite article in its specifying function, or by either of the article in their generic function. The noun denotes notion forming the starting point of the utterance. The indefinite article in its classifying function occurs to express the idea of novelty or unexpectedness, no matter what the position of the subject is. A similar use of the indefinite article occurs in sentences with the existential construction There is. Articles in English are invariable. That is, they do not change according to the gender or number of the noun they refer to, e.g. the boy, the woman, the children.
1.3. Theories of definiteness explanation
In Lyons’ book, Definiteness (1999), Lyons outlines four competing theories (with some overlap) to try to explain definiteness, or the property of being definite. 1.3.1. Familiarity theory
The first theory he presents is the familiarity hypothesis. The point of this hypothesis is that for an object to be definite, it must be familiar to both the speaker and the listener: e.g. I went blind from staring at the sun too long. In the sentence, the sun is part of everyone’s general knowledge, and it is therefore familiar to both the speaker and the listener. Lyons notes that the familiarity hypothesis fails in certain conditions when the object is not familiar to the listener. Such examples can occur when someone (the listener) walks into a room, and the speaker asks for a certain item. Having just entered the room, the listener has no idea to what object the speaker refers. 1.3.2. Identifiability theory
A solution to this shortcoming of the familiarity hypothesis can be found in the identifiability hypothesis, which maintains that the definite article directs the listener to an object by signaling to him that he is in a position to locate it (Lyons 1999: 5-6). In the situation described above, where the listener walks into a room, and the speaker asks him or her for a particular object an example of identifiability would be: e.g. Please pass me the chainsaw so I can chop off your head. If there is only one chainsaw in the room, both the listener and the speaker can clearly identify the object, even if the listener has just entered the room (Lyons 1999: 3-7). However, the identifiability hypothesis also fails when the object is not identifiable at the time of the utterance. To account for such situations, Lyons introduces the reader to the uniqueness and inclusiveness hypotheses.
1.3.3. Uniqueness theory
Under the uniqueness hypothesis, the definite article signals that there is only one entity that satisfies the description that the speaker used. In other words, the object to which the speaker refers to is unique. Notice how this entity can be familiar or identifiable, but it need not be. An example where an utterance is neither familiar nor identifiable is: e.g. The winner of the competition will definitely lose a limb. The competition has not yet ended, as noted by future tense, so the listener cannot possibly identify the winner. In addition, since the winner is still unknown, the listener cannot possibly be familiar with him or her. However, it is common knowledge that unless there is a tie, a competition only has one winner. Therefore, in the listener’s mind, even though the winner has yet to be determined, he or she will be unique based on the fact that a competition only has one winner. 1.3.4. Inclusiveness theory
In stark contrast to the uniqueness hypothesis is the inclusiveness hypothesis, which applies to groups of items. With this hypothesis, a speaker refers to a totality or an aggregate of objects that satisfy his or her description. The referenced object is not unique because it refers to a group of objects. For example, if I mention dogs, I could be referring to a group of ten golden retrievers, a group of five poodles and five schnauzers, or any possible dogs. The only entity that the listener can comprehend is that I am referring to a group of four-legged animals, with wagging tails, and a coat of hair. In addition, at a party, the host may exclaim: e.g. Hope your glasses are empty because we’re serving the beer. The beer in this sentence is not unique, not identifiable (assume it is in the refrigerator), and not familiar (it is still in the refrigerator). In this usage, the definite article is a type of universal quantifier meaning something like, ‘all the beer.’ Hence, the speaker is not referring to one specific or identifiable beer, but just the collection of beer in general (i.e., all of the beer in the cooler) (Lyons 1999: 7-12).
1.3.5. Anaphoric Definites and Generics
Lyons then moves on to discuss non-anaphoric definites and generics. He maintains that there are two main uses of the definite article, which are situational and general knowledge. Both of these cases can be explained by the familiarity and identfiability hypotheses. The situation use occurs when someone walks into a room and is asked: “Pass me the beer.” This example is situational because it varies by context and is best explained with the identifiability hypothesis. That is, what the speaker refers to depends on which room the listener enters and to which item the speaker fancies. Thus, if we were in the garage, and there was no refrigerator and no beer, it would make no sense for the speaker to ask the listener to pass him or her the beer. Obviously, it would make more sense for the speaker to ask the listener to pass him or her the hammer, since both the speaker and the listener are in the garage, and a hammer is likely to be in a garage. On the other hand, general knowledge uses can be clarified with the familiarity hypothesis because the referenced object is familiar to both the speaker and the listener. Everyone knows what the moon is, so it should be completely obvious what the speaker is referencing if he or she utters this sentence: e.g. The moon is full tonight, so there should be a lot of vampires lurking. The moon is familiar to both the speaker and the listener because both have learned that the earth has one moon that illuminates the night in their fourth grade study of the planets. In the above examples, the range of noun phrases (e.g., the beer) can be characterized as definite because they can be described in terms of identifiability and familiarity. Lyons explains this as “semantic definiteness,” where the definite article is grammatical and carries a [+def] feature. The marker [+def] can segment the semantic field depending on which uses require a definite article because under “semantic definiteness,” a language does not need to treat these uses as grammatically definite (Lyons 1999: 158-60). It is always best to have one theory that describes a phenomenon instead of multiple theories. However, familiarity and identifiability fail with generics. Generics are entities that are treated as unique and are consequently, definite. This occurs mainly with the definite singular generic, but it can also arise with the definite plural generic. For example, generics, such as the dodo and the equator, are both unique but not familiar or identifiable. There is only one dodo bird or equator, but the listener is not familiar with either one, since the dodo is long extinct, and the equator is an imaginary line on a world map and does not occur in the real world. However, from general knowledge and experience, the listener knows exactly to what the speaker refers (Lyons 1999: 188). In addition, such generics, with the exception of the equator seem to be used to refer to a collective group. Thus, the inclusiveness hypothesis must be used to interpret the sentence correctly: e.g.The dodo became extinct a long time ago. This sentence is analogous to the previously mentioned sentence, The beer is in the refrigerator, which could only be defined as definite under the inclusiveness hypothesis. Hence, throughout his book, Lyons informs the readers of several theories to explain definiteness and exemplifies them by applying them to non-anaphoric definites and generics. How Definiteness is Processed in the Mind: Two theories and Lyons’ General View After outlining theories to attempt to explain definitesness, Lyons discusses how semantics and pragmatics can be used to process definite phrases in the mind. Lyons disagrees with both the semantic and pragmatic theories, and accordingly, he creates his own theory.
1.3.6. Discourse Semantics
Heim proposed the theory of discourse semantics to explain how phrases, such as definite phrases, are processed in the mind. She claims that our mind is like a filing cabinet. A numbered file card represents each discourse referent, with more recent referents stored near the top. When a new discourse element is encountered, the listener must add a new card to the file with the new information. Definites refer to entities that are either familiar to the listener and the speaker or unique. Hence, if the referent is definite, the listener need only update a pre-existing card and add new info about the current referent to that card. In a conversation, the listener uses a Boolean function (i.e., one that returns true or false) to search though the filing cabinet. He or she keeps searching for a match for the current situation (Lyons 1999: 268-70). The search continues until the listener finds a card that satisfies the search condition, meaning that it matches the current discourse information. If the listener finds no card that satisfies the current condition, the search function returns false, and the listener must create a new card. The most important aspect to this approach is that, through many uses of the filing system, the listener creates semantic links between existing cards. These “bridges” between pre-existing cards ensure that the listener is able to extract information quickly enough to be able to follow the conversation. With more and more use of the filing system, similar entities become more tightly linked and access is even faster (Heim 1988: 274-94). For instance, in a conversation about a particular dog, the filing system would function in this manner: e.g.The dog bit me on the way home from school yesterday. The listener hears the sentence and then would access his file with the referent dog, which is semantically linked to other names of dogs in his filing cabinet, as well as entities associated with dogs, such as teeth, four legs, fur, balls, and leashes. Having accessed the dog file, the listener then recalls that the dog named Rex bit the speaker yesterday, and that is why he now has rabies. In this manner, the listener knows exactly what dog the speaker refers to because of the associative links in his mental filing system. 1.3.7. Relevance theory
This is a pragmatic theory, where the speaker utters a sentence, which is in logical form. However, the uttered sentence does not contain all of the information that the listener needs to identify the referent. Thus, the listener must access further background information and combine this information with the logical form. In this way, the listener is able to identify what the speaker has mentioned. A linguist named Wilson supports the fact that processing of definiteness involves relevance theory, and it involves these steps. First, the listener hears the speaker’s utterance and comprehends it. Then, the listener retrieves background information about and mental images of the referent from memory and applies these to the utterance. With enough mental images and background information, the listener is able to clearly identify the speaker’s intended referent. In processing sentences with relevance theory, identifiability works, but inclusiveness does not. In a room with three closed doors and one open door. The speaker walks into the room and states: “Close the door for me, please.” In the sentence, the door to close is identifiable because it is the only open door in the room. On the other hand, inclusiveness fails because there is an aggregate of doors, but only one matches the speaker’s description. Here, the mental image of the open door is most salient in the listener’s mind, and so it is examined first. The listener then applies his knowledge that open doors generally need to be closed when someone mentions that a door should be closed. Hence, the listener applies his background knowledge and mental images to the speaker’s utterance and can thusly determine which is the correct door to close. According to Lyons, relevance theory is a version of identifiability, where interpreting a definite noun phrase, such as the door, involves retrieving and constructing a conceptual representation of the referent, which uniquely identifies it (Lyons 1999: 271-3). Lyons notes that identifiability, familiarity, uniqueness, and inclusiveness cannot be combined into one theory, and he therefore, tries to provide a unified account of definiteness. He argues as follows: “After outlining some major approaches I will argue (following up hints dropped in preceding chapters) that the attempt to find a fully unified characterization of definiteness in semantic or pragmatic terms is misguided. I will propose an account of definiteness as a grammatical category which, like other such categories, cannot be completely defined in semantic or pragmatic terms, though it represents the grammaticalization of some category of meaning.” Lyons then presents two arguments for the separation of grammatical definiteness and semantic/ pragmatic definiteness. As previously mentioned, generics are semantically definite but not necessarily grammatically definite. Second, he observes that definiteness marking overlaps in function with topic marking. Thus, the two do not tend to co-occur in languages. For instance, Lyons maintains that English can only render a Japanese noun phrase marked with the topic marker the as definite or generic. Lyons claims that topics in Japanese are required to be identifiable, since topics in Japanese can be generic, and as stated above, generics are semantically definite but generally grammatically indefinite. Lyons asserts that this conflict between generics and Japanese topic marking points to a dissociation between identifiability (“semantic/ pragmatic definiteness”) and grammatical definiteness. Based on the two arguments above, Lyons determines that definiteness is a syntactic concept, much like tense, mood, number, and gender. There is no one-to-one correspondence between grammatical definiteness and its semantic/ pragmatics concepts because the concept is grammaticalized, the process by which lexical items are reduced to grammatical status, and during this process, the concept takes on a new meaning. He has three examples explaining this occurrence: a) A past tense form in subjunctive that describes a present or future event. b) Pluralia tantum nouns, such as trousers and pants, which are plural even when used to refer to single objects. c) Mass nouns, such as water and sugar, which are grammatically singular but not semantically singular.
Since there is considerable variation amongst languages in the use of such categories, grammatical and semantic/ pragmatic definiteness are in conflict. Moreover, just because something is identifiable does not always mean that it is definite. There are always a large central core of uses related directly to identifiability but not having anything to do with definiteness. Finally, there is no way to unify uniqueness, identifiability, familiarity, and inclusiveness, which all represent semantic/ pragmatic theories. Therefore, because syntactic categories, such as tense and mood, are fairly universal across languages, it is best to grammaticalize definiteness and define it as a syntactic concept.
Conclusions to the Chapter One. There is a real problem to define the nature of the article. Some scholars consider it to be a morpheme, the other differentiate it as a separate part of speech but there is no adequate definition of the article. Thus, there is a problem of its usage especially by not native speakers, for example by Slavic people, because their languages are deprived of such a category as article. While in syntactical languages the category of definiteness/indefiniteness is shown by the help of inflection, analytical languages, English in particular, use the article.
THE USAGE OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE
2.1. General rules of the definite article usage
After defining the nature of the definite article and getting to know the notion of definiteness we should also render certain cases when the definite article is used in the English language. Definite article “the” is used in the following cases:
1. To refer to something which has already been mentioned.
e.g. The son, a steady, respectable man, was amply provided for by the fortune of his mother, which had been large, and half of which devolved on him on his coming of age. Jane Austen. e.g. The apartment I’ve found is a quiet studio in a historic building, located just a few narrow blocks from the Spanish Steps, draped beneath the graceful shadow of the elegant Borghese Gardens, right up the street from the Piazza del Popolo, where the ancient Romans used to race their chariots. E.Gilbert. 2. When both the speaker and listener know what is being talked about, even if it has not been mentioned before. e.g. “Where's the bathroom?”
“It's on the first floor.” E.Gilbert.
3. In sentences or clauses where we define or identify a particular person or object: e.g. After the spaghetti , I tried the veal. E. Gilbert. e.g. Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her. Mario Puzo. 4. To refer to objects we regard as unique (the sun, the moon, the world ): e.g. When one person is missing, the world seems to be depopulated. E. Gilbert. The love that moves the sun and the other stars. E. Gilbert. 5. Before superlatives and ordinal numbers (the highest building, the first page, the last chapter): e.g. “You acted like the worst kind of degenerates,” the judge said harshly. Mario Puzo. e.g.Tthe first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. Jane Austen. I’d never wanted to be on the medication in the first place.
6. With adjectives, to refer to a whole group of people (the Japanese, the old ): e.g. The Mafia has been the only successful business in Sicily for centuries (running the business of protecting citizens from itself), and it still keeps its hand down everybody’s pants. E. Gilbert. 7. With names of geographical areas and oceans:
e.g. the Caribbean, the Sahara, the Atlantic.
8. With decades, or groups of years:
e.g. In the sixteenth century, some Italian intellectuals got together and decided that this was absurd. E. Gilbert. If the noun is followed by a dependent clause (who/which/that) or a prepositional phrase (of/in/to...), it is made definite and takes the definite article. e.g. The man who lives next door is Chinese. No one expected the results that were found.
The horses which were left her after her husband had been sold soon after his death. Jane Austen. EXCEPTION: collective nouns take the indefinite article:
e.g. a box of matches/a deck of cards/a bar of soap/a herd of cows. Generic reference is used when one refers to a whole group or class, to generalize about all possible members of a group. There are five patterns one can use: 1. No article plus countable noun in plural:
e.g. What a large number of factors constitute a single human being. E. Gilbert. 2. No article plus uncountable noun:
e.g. Love can cause a lot of suffering. E. Gilbert.
3. Indefinite article plus singular count noun:
e.g. It's astonishing what a gymnast can do. E. Gilbert.
(This pattern cannot be used to discuss the location or existence of something/someone. You cannot say a lion lives in Africa. You must use pattern 1 or 3). 4. Definite article plus singular count noun:
e.g. It's astonishing what the gymnast can do.
5. Definite article plus plural nationality noun:
e.g. Also, I had one artichoke, just to try it, the Romans are awfully proud of their artichokes. E. Gilbert. Pattern 1 is most common in colloquial English; pattern 3 is frequently used in academic writing.
2.2. Special cases of definite article usage
Media and communications:
Use a noun plus definite article to refer to systems of communication and the mass media, in contrast to the actual machine of communications. The telephone is the system of communication; a telephone is the actual physical machine. The newspapers are all in agreement on the latest financial disaster. Exception: television usually has no article: e.g. Did you see him on television? Before the names of certain books: the Bible, the Vedas, the Illiad. Means of transportation:
Use the definite article to refer to the whole transport system, rather than to an individual vehicle: e.g. How long does it take on the bus? The subway is quicker.
e.g. An opportunity now offering of disposing of the carriage, she agreed to sell that likewise at the earnest advice of her eldest daughter. Jane Austen. If you use the construction "by plus means of transport," there is no article: e.g. I go by subway. e.g. Although the next day ( protective brothers notwithstanding) I did get hit by a bus. E. Gilbert. Forms of entertainment:
Many forms of entertainment are preceded by the definite article the, but not the medium of television: e.g. I go to the cinema/movies, the theatre, the circus, the ballet and the opera.
In the daytime I listen to the radio, but in the evenings I like to watch television. To refer to a form of entertainment in general, use the definite article: e.g. I enjoy seeing the ballet.
To refer to a particular event, use the indefinite article: e.g. I saw a good movie last night.
Place/object of activity nouns:
Certain nouns refer to either a place/object or to an activity. When they refer to an activity, do not use the definite article: e.g. I go to bed at 11 o'clock.Don't jump on the bed.
She went to school for many years.The school was too small. Many families eat dinner together.The dinner was delicious. I shower before breakfast.The breakfast was delicious.
They are at church.The church is very old.
She is in class.The class is in Room 102.
Nouns indicating direction do not take the definite article: e.g. Go two blocks south and turn left.
Exception: nouns indicating political divisions take the definite article: She is on the left of the party. Periods of time:
Names of decades, centuries and historic periods take the definite article, as they are a form of unique reference: e.g. The 1960s were a time of student rebellion.
Proper nouns are names of particular people, places and things (John F. Kennedy, New York, Notre Dame Cathedral). Nevertheless, the definite article is not used with most singular proper nouns. For example, if you refer to you friend George, you would not say “The George and I went to movie last night”. Some cases “the” is used with the name like this are: a) When you want to be emphatic, as in “the Elizabeth Taylor” (to emphasize that you are talking about a famous actress and not about another woman with the same name). b) When you are actually using the name as a common noun as in “the George that I introduced you last night” (the exact one) [9;37-39]. One of the challenges that translators often face in their work comes from proper names. Are proper nouns translated? Here is a question apparently with a negative answer but which becomes, at a second thought, a dilemma. Some translators believe they are not translated, not ever, while others consider this to be a more complicated matter. How are things exactly? This work is an attempt to solve the mystery, to make things clear. “Proper names are never translated” seems to be the general belief to translators. However, the existence of proper names in a translation can be the surprise factor. Lengthway considers proper nouns to be translated as in the case of some medieval European queens. The most popular names were Eleanor, Anne, Mary, and Elizabeth. The problem is that these names change what language you read them in. for example, an English queen named Elizabeth Ι (the first) is known in France as Élizabeth Ιère. The case of the name referring to kings is similar: Eduard the Confessor becomes in French Édouard le Confesseur. In this way, one may notice that historians used to translate the names of ancient royalty. As a matter of fact, present-day historians still practice this method because they do not want their readers to lose the “red threat”, as T.N. Bisson (Harverd’s expert on the Crown of Aragon) explains: “How to render names in English is a problem f uncommon difficulty in a work dealing with peoples of different languages who had rules in common. Some of these rules and their princely offspring were Catalan by blood or preference, others Aragonese, still others Castilians, and the count-kings between 1162 and 1410, while speaking Catalan as a rule, bore the names and regnal numbers of an Aragonese dynasty. It therefore seemed awkward to refer to these rules in the Catalan forms (and numbers) of their originally Aragonese names(Alfons Ι for Alfonso II, etc.), misleading to refer to them as if Aragonese, and absurd to present some in one way and some in the other” [20;23-24]. As the translation of the royal names presupposes a lot of problems and difficulties, Bisson adopts a compromise which he considers common in historical writing: namely, to anglicize the given names of kings in one or several of the reign, making up the Crown of Aragon. Furthermore, he opts to render the names of popes, certain foreign rulers, and dynasties as well as of Hispanic countries – Catalonia, Aragon, Majorca, etc. – in what he terms their “familiar English forms”. Nevertheless, Bisson readily admits that no such system can pretend to solve the problems completely and that he tolerates a few exceptions. Consequently, it can easily be seen that translating proper names was common not only in the Middle Ages, but has remained a current practice (and sometimes a necessary one, as Bisson states) to the present day. To prove this assertion, Verónica Albin’s words, extracted from her essay: “What’s in a Name: Juliet’s Question Revised” are the best argument: she present some relevant cases in which a translation was made: For example, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Quevedo did it without a success to Michael de Montaigne (Miguel de Montaňa), while Shakespeare did it to a great acclaim to the lovely Giulietta dei Capuleti. In the 18th century, someone with a strong classical bent did it to the poor Louvre (la Lobera) – mercifully it did not take hold. In the 19th century, Spanish literary translation did it to Balzak and called him Honorato, and the historians in the 20th century did it to Engels and dubbed him Federico. And in our century, Harper Collins, in the 2002 edition of its bilingual Spanish Dictionary. Still does it to most English first names, tacitly encouraging translators tyros to continue the practice [3;30]. The translation of proper names is a phenomenon belonging to the past, when, all the royal names or all the writer’s names were adapted to the target language and culture. However, nowadays, such a practice is still in use. But why is it so? Which is the cause that determines a translator to make such a decision. Grammatically proper nouns behave very mach in the same way as common nouns. There are, however, well-known co-occurrence restrictions that distinguish them from common nouns. The most important among them are: a) Proper nouns accept demonstrative pronouns as determiners. One would not normally say this John just bought a car. However, supposing there are several Johns out of whom you wish to single out a particular one, you are already using John as a common noun meaning any person called John. b) Proper names do not accept restrictive adjectives or restrictive relative clauses. In the sentence the Old Shakespeare felt the closeness of his death one is implicitly comparing one of several manifestations in time of the person called Shakespeare with the rest, therefore, one is using the word as a common noun in the grammatical sense. The same applies to sentences such as she is no longer the Eve she used to be. One may deny this only at price of more or less ad hoc explanations about the character of the noun in question. Another way of putting this would be to say that we have to do with two homonymous words John or Shakespeare respectively, one of which is a proper noun, the other is a common noun. When in a given speech situation we have a unique reference, we are dealing with the proper noun, otherwise with a common noun. Opposition between definite and indefinite is neutralized in proper names (a given proper names either invariably take zero article as in John, London, or invariably take the definite article as in the Strand, the Haymarket, the Queen Elizabeth ). The article is one of the most complicated problems of the English grammar, at least for Slavic people, in whose languages there are no articles. All these factors are to be born in mind constantly – either when one listens to the speaker to understand his intention (when one is a hearer) or when one intends to say something and makes his hearers understand what he was intended to say. It is necessary to say that what we call “situation” is as important as it is something illusive and difficult to grasp. It demands understanding of different linguistic phenomena and not only them. The use of articles is also connected with the linguistic tradition, which is often not so easy to explain. Such situations presuppose memorizing patterns and acquiring habits of usage. Traditional use is less frequent. The use of articles is difficult for because there is no such a notion in our language. Students often try to avoid articles by using pronouns: my, his, her, our, their or some, any. Though, it may be a fitting substitute in some cases. The definite article may be used in following functions: 1. The identifying function. When we speak, we want to point out that both the hearer and we perceive with our organs of feeling[v; 95]. These are visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, tactile feelings. 2. The definitizing function. The object or thing denoted by the noun is presented as a part of some complex. In modern linguistics, the term “frame” is often used. The frame is a structurally organized system of images. 3. The individualizing function. The object in question may be presented as a unique thing with the hearer’s attention focused on its distinguishing features, which are represented with the help of a particularizing attribute. The particularizing attribute can be expressed by: a) Adjective in the superlative degree: e.g., This is the easiest way out. b) Ordinal numerals: e.g., I have forgotten the word. c) Attributive relative restrictive clauses: e.g., I need the book I bought yesterday.
2.2.1. The definite article with geographical names
According to Natanson E.A. geographical names like all the ether proper nouns are used without articles. Most continents, islands, countries, states are used without articles: e.g. This is not a problem for my friends in India. E. Gilbert. Among the many jobs that Richard from Texas has held in his life – and I know I’m leaving a lot of them – are oil-field worker; eighteen-wheeler truck driver; the first authorized dealer. E. Gilbert. Exceptions are names ending with republic, kingdom, union: the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the USA. The name of the continent or country is modified by another word, article is not used [11;45]. Most cities, towns, suburbs, villages are used without articles: e.g. Over the next six weeks, I travel to Bologna, to Florence, to Venice, to Sicily, to Sardinia, once more down to Naples, then over to Calabria. E. Gilbert. There are some exceptions: the High Street, the Strand, the Mall, the London Road, the Bath Road. The bridges are used without articles. But there are some of them which are used with definite article: the Sidney Harbor Bridge, the Humber Bridge. “The” is used also in: the Queensbury Bridge. When the geographical names represent the combination of proper noun and ending determines word the article is not used [11; 150]. Names of political and administrative regions have no article. Names of the harbors use no article but when two nouns are separated by of then definite article is used. Geographical names modified by a particularizing attribute are used with the definite article. With names of oceans: the Pacific Ocean, seas: the Black Sea, straights and canals: the Panama Canal, rivers: the Danube, the definite article is used. Names of lakes take the definite article unless the word “lake” is used: Lake Baikal, but the Baikal. Before the names of countries, oceans, seas and other geographical names when they represent the combination of nominative noun with presiding determine word the definite article is used. The definite article is saved before names of oceans and seas in those cases when words ocean and sea are omitted [6;78]. The names of the following towns, countries and provinces are used with definite article: the Hague, the Netherlands, the West Indies, the Ruhr, the Crimea, the Caucasus, the Congo, the Transvaal (but Argentina). The Lebanon is generally used with the definite article [3;129]. In the names of foreign streets and squares the article has to be saved if they are in their origin. When the names of streets are the part of address, the definite article may be used. The road signs have no article. Geographical names and places used with the definite article: a) Names of desert: the Kara Kum Desert.
b) Mountain ranges and groups of hills: the Appalachians, the Alps, the Carpathians. c) Groups of islands: the Bermudas.
d) Cardinal points: the West.
But in the expressions from East to West, from North to South no article is used. Names of territories consisting of a word combination in which the last word is a common noun. Geographical names and place names that are used without any article: 1. Names of continent .
No article is used either when names of continents are modified by such attributes as northern, southern, western, eastern, central, minor, south-western, south-eastern, Latin: e.g. Palermo – a city Goethe once claimed was possessed of an impossible-to-describe beauty – may now be the only city in Western Europe where you can still find yourself picking your steps through World War II ruble. E. Gilbert. But the Arctic, the Antarctic is used because they mean waters round the North and South poles. 2. Names of countries.
Today the only country names that take “the” in English are those that are plural in form, such as the United States, the Netherlands, and the Philippines, plus a few others whose name logically requires the article, such as the United Kingdom and the Ivory Coast (though the authorities in the second have been making strenuous efforts to persuade the English-speaking world to accept the French form Côte d'Ivoire). Other country names that formerly took the article now usually occur without it, such as Lebanon, Sudan, Gambia, and Ukraine (But the Vatican City ). Citizens of some of these countries may find the use of the article rather offensive (R.L. Trask, Mind the Gaffe! Penguin, 2001). No article is used either when these nouns have such attributes as north, south, east, west, ancient, old, new, central, Soviet. But names of countries that contain common noun have the definite article: the USSR, the USA, the UK. 3. Names of cities, town and villages. But the Hague. 4. Political and administrative regions of countries. 5. Names of bays.
6. Names of peninsulas have no article if the proper name is used alone. 7. Names of separate mountain peaks.
8. Names of separate islands.
But in case when geographic names that generally take no article may be occasionally found with the definite or the indefinite articles. It occur in the following cases: a) The definite article is used when there is a particularizing attribute. b) The indefinite article is found when a geographic name is modified by a descriptive attribute which brings out a special aspect [5; 256]. We use the definite article with the words: beach, station, cinema, countryside, jungle, seaside, weather, shop, library, city, sea. But: to be at sea – to be sailing [gusak; 95].
2.2.2. The definite article with proper nouns
It is a common knowledge that no article is used with proper nouns. However, both definite and indefinite articles can be used with names of person. Definite article is used with proper nouns:
1. To indicate the whole family: e.g. And when the visit returned by the Middletons dining at the cottage, the fact was ascertained by his listening to her again. Jane Austen. 2. With a name modified by a particularizing attribute.
3. With name modified by a descriptive attribute or appositive noun to describe a person or to indicate a permanent quality of the person. 4. In certain titles.
5. With names of people to refer to someone famous. In this case the definite article should be stressed and pronounced. 6. In the descriptive names of some monarchs, in special names, titles and epithets: the King, the Princess of Wales, the President, the Prime Minister. e.g. Prince Charles is the prince of Wales.
We should also bear in mind that restaurant, shops, banks, pubs and hotels which have the name of their founder and end in s or ’s do not take the: e.g. Harrods, Lloyds Bank, Dave’s Pub.
The definite article “the” may be used with some nicknames, for example, one person may have the nickname Monster, and another – the Monster. In direct address, the article is omitted, for example: He asked the Monster about it. He asked, ”Monster, what do you think about it?” The definite article “the” is required when the surname is used in plural to show the members of the family together, or just the husband and the wife as a family.
2.2.3. The definite article with the names of buildings and institutions According to Korbina E.A. the following nouns typically take the definite article (although on maps the definite article is usually not used): a) Names of theatres: the Ivan Franco Theater, concert halls: the Ukraina, cinemas: the Kyivska Rus, clubs and hotels: the Red Loin, the Savoy. b) Names of museums: the British Museum, picture galleries: the Hermitage. Two-word names, in which the first word is the name of a person or a place, are not used with the article. But the White House, the Royal Palace, because “white” and “royal” are not names of places or people. Special features of the usage of the definite article with the names of streets, roads, squares and parks Names of streets, roads, parks, squares, stadiums and malls tend to be used without any article according to Gordon E.M. But names of some streets are traditionally used with the definite article, e.g. the Strand, the High Street, the Mall [5; 234]. In the case of names of streets in foreign countries are used with the definite article. Certain roads can have the definite article or no article. Highways and motorways tend to have definite article. But: the Snowdonia National Park, the Botanic Gardens. Names of parks in foreign countries are often used with the definite article: the Gorki Park (in Moscow), the Tiergarten (in Berlin) [5; 237]. According to Gurevych V.V. names of squares in foreign countries may have the definite article: the Red Square (in Moscow). When streets names are parts of addresses, the definite article sometimes can be left out: “24 (the) High Street, 104 Edgware Road”. The definite article is not used in streets signs. Names of zoos, gardens are used with the definite article [5;238].
2.2.4. The use of the article with the names of newspapers, periodicals and sporting events According to Zaykovski S. names of newspapers published in English tend to have the definite article, including almost all the British national newspapers: the Guardian, the Metro, the Mirror, the Morning Star, the Sun, the Telegraph, the Times. The only one exception is: Today [7;78]. “The” is capitalized uniformly in the names of newspapers, journals, and magazines (The New York Times, The Times; The Daily News, The News): e.g. There was once a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine. E. Gilbert. But lowercase the when using a publication title as a modifier (the Daily News reporter), because in such a case, the is grammatically attached to the noun (reporter). Some publication names do not include the, even in conversation: Newsday; National Review; Reader's Digest; Congressional Quarterly. Journalistic Omission of “The”
In everyday news reporting journalists often delete the when providing readers with a thumbnail identity of the person just mentioned in the report: Peter Carey, (the) author of Oscar and Lucinda and ex-advertising man, has a gift for graphic description. The definite article is not used with the names of foreign newspapers; names of periodicals such as magazines and journals have no article; but the Journal of American Psychology, the Spectator are used with the definite article. Names of sporting events usually have the definite article: the Olympcs. One particular case of such an event is picked out by using the definite or indefinite article. Names which are taken from the place where the event occurs do not have the definite article [7;80].
2.2.5. The usage of the definite article with the names of festivals, organizations, political institutions, languages, months and days Names of religious and other festivals have no article. But one particular event can be picked out by using the definite or indefinite article [4; 345]. In accordance with Ganchyna M.O. names of well-known institutions, foundations, organizations typically have the definite article, and they keep it when they are abbreviated. If an abbreviation is pronounced as a word, then there is no article. Some names of charities do not have the definite article. Business and chains of shops are referred to with no article. However, if a word like “company” is used, then the definite article is used: the Microsoft Company [4; 439]. The following names are typically used with the definite article: 1. The names of most political or governmental institutions: the Democratic Party. This is also true of foreign institution, translated or not. There are some exceptions. These are: Parliament, Congress and names of councils: Kent Country Council, Leeds City Council. But names of locations and buildings that are used to refer metaphorically to political institutions stay as they are; 2. Official titles. But article is not used if the name accompanies the title; 3. Names of political parties: the Conservative Party.
4. Names of law enforcement bodies, civil and military: the Pentagon. 5. Names of bills, acts and the other legislative deliberations: the Emancipation Proclamation. Names of languages when not followed by the noun “language” are used without articles: English, French, German. For example: e.g. To understand why, you have to first understand that Europe was once a pandemonium of numberless Latin-derived dialects that gradually, over the centuries, morphed into a few separate languages – French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian. E. Gilbert. e.g. Luca have been worried about how the conversation would proceed tonight, given that half the guests can’t speak English and the other half can’t speak Italian ( and only Sofie can speak Swedish). E. Gilbert. When the noun “language” is mentioned the definite article is used: the English language, the Italian language. The definite article is used if the noun is modified by a particularizing attribute. As a rule names of months and days are used without articles. When these nouns are modified by a particularizing attribute the definite article the definite article is used. Names of days are used with the definite article when mean one of many Mondays, Fridays [1;37]. The definite article is also used with the historical periods or events: the Middle Ages. The definite article is also used before a noun that is unique, only one. If there is only one thing like that in existence (universally or locally), the article "the" is used with such a noun: e.g. the atmosphere, the sky, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the world, the universe, the horizon, the equator,the north, the south, the east, the west, the president, the king, the government, the police, the end, the beginning, the result, the bottom. The sun is shining today.
He went to the East to study yoga.
The end is near.
The Earth is surrounded and protected by the atmosphere.
Note: The word "earth" in set expressions is generally used without any article: on earth, what on earth, why on earth, how on earth; bring someone back to earth, come down to earth, move heaven and earth. Some adjectives can be used with the definite article in the function of nouns. In such cases, adjectives acquire the meaning of a plural noun that usually denotes a group of people, and agree with a plural verb: the poor, the rich, the sick, the injured, the elderly, the deaf, the dumb, the unemployed, the homeless, the young, the old, the blind, the dead, the handicapped(disabled), the lethally ill. It is a school for the blind.
The old need help from the young.
The rich should share with the poor.
The names of some nationalities are formed in this way: the French, the Irish, the Dutch, the Swiss, the Chinese, the Japanese. The Irish have many old customs.
The French are famous for their wines.
If an adjective with the definite article is used instead of an abstract noun, it agrees with a singular verb: e.g. The unknown attracts and scares us. The definite article "the" is used with the adjectives "right, wrong, left, right, only, same, last, next, following", and some others. You asked the wrong people.
He is the only pilot I know.
He often reads the same books.
Listen to the following story.
The last task was easy.
The next exercise will be difficult.
This man always appears at the right place at the right time. No article is used with the adjectives "last, next" in the adverbial modifiers of time "last week, last year, last month, next week, next year, next month". I saw him last month.
I'll go there next year.
We went there last winter.
We'll see him next week.
The article "the" is used in the following adverbial modifiers of time: In the evening (at night), in the morning, in the afternoon, the other day, the day before yesterday, on the first of May (on May first). e.g. We saw Nina the other day.
We left on the tenth of July.
She likes to walk in the morning.
Usually, the definite article "the" is used in the adverbial modifiers of place: in the room, under the table, in the corner, on the street, in front of the house, behind the tree, across the river, at the airport, to the bank, to the station, through the tunnel. e.g. He turned around the corner.
Your paper is on the table.
I read about it in the books.
He went to the doctor.
The indefinite article a/an can be used in some adverbial modifiers of place, but the meaning will be different: e.g. She works at the bank. (I'm telling you her place of work / occupation.) She works at a bank.
The article "the" is required with ordinal numerals: e.g. Do the first exercise.
But: Do exercise 1 (exercise one).
Read the third page.
But: Read page 3 (page three).
The tenth floor, please.
But: Floor 10 (floor ten), please.
Note that the names of streets in the form of ordinal numerals are used without any article: e.g. He lives on First Street. But the definite article is used in constructions like these: e.g. the Fifth Avenue bus; the Tenth Street galleries. If the ordinal number is not the name of the street, the definite article is used: the first street on your left. Use "the" with decades of years: e.g.the twenties (the '20s / the 1920s), the fifties, the sixties, the nineties He wrote several books in the eighties.
Such skirts were popular in the 1960s.
Use the definite article with the names of musical instruments when indicating what kind of musical instrument is played. For example: play the piano, play the violin, play the sax, play the guitar, play the trumpet, play the flute, play the drums. e.g.He plays the piano very well.
Maria can play the violin.
But: play football, play basketball, play volleyball, play tennis, play golf, play chess, play billiards, play cards. e.g. They played chess all evening.
How often do you play volleyball?
If a group of objects is represented by one object of their class, this singular countable noun takes the definite article the. Its meaning is a notion representing a class of objects, not the only object or specific object. This function is called the generic function of the definite article: e.g. The computer is not a luxury. The rose needs rich soil.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal, and the giraffe is the tallest. The telephone was invented by Alexander Bell.
The snowy owl is white the year round.
Uncountable nouns do not take the article "the" in similar cases: e.g. Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel. Water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen.
The indefinite article is often used with a singular countable noun in similar situations, but its meaning is "one of, some, any member of a class of objects", and not a notion representing a class of objects. Nouns in the plural are used without any article in such cases: e.g. A rose is a beautiful flower. An owl is a bird.
A cucumber is green.
A painter paints pictures.
Poets write poems.
Bananas are yellow.
Owls live on all continents, except Antarctica.
The generic function of the definite article with a singular countable noun to express a notion representing a class of objects is not used in everyday speech often, but it is quite common in scientific and reference literature. Compare these examples: The telescope is an astronomical instrument. The telescope was invented by Galileo. (Not the only telescope or specific telescope, but the notion representing the class of telescopes). The telescope that I bought is very small. (Specific telescope) The telescopes that I bought were not very expensive. (Specific telescopes) A telescope is an astronomical instrument. (One / any telescope) Telescopes are very expensive. (Any telescopes).
The use of the definite article with nouns in set expressions a) It is out of the question.
b) To take the trouble to do something.
c) In the original.
d) To play the piano (the violin, the harp).
e) To keep the house.
f) On the whole.
g) To keep the bed.
h) The other day (refers to the past).
i) On the one hand… on the other hand.
j) To tell (to speak) the truth.
k) To be on the safe side.
Some expressions with the definite article to remember:
in the middle
in the corner
to the right
to the left
in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
to play the piano
to play the guitar
in the north
to the north
in the south
to the south
in the east
to the east
in the west
to the west
at the cinema
at the theatre
at the shop
at the market
to the cinema
to the theatre
to the shop
to the market
It should be mentioned that even between British and American usage one finds subtle differences in nuance or emphasis. For example, Americans usually say someone is in the hospital, much as they could be at the bank or in the park. To the British this sounds like there is only one hospital in town or that the American is thinking of one hospital in particular that he or she patronizes. The Brits say an ailing person is in hospital, just as they would say a child is at school or a criminal is in prison. This is because they are thinking more of the primary activities that take place within those institutions rather than the buildings in which they are housed. If, however, you are merely visiting one of these places, you are at the hospital, at the school or at the prison — both British and Americans agree here that what we have in mind is the building itself.
These few examples serve to illustrate that there is more to articles than at first meets the eye. Most article usage does in fact have a reasonably logical explanation. If this can be properly grasped then non-native English can be made a lot less conspicuous and many misunderstandings avoided. Irregularity: Spoken American English drops “the” in dates: e.g. It was the worst day of my life! The captain was the first person to leave the burning tanker. AmE June twenty-first.
BrE June the twenty-first.
The twenty-first (day) of June.
Acronyms (initials read as whole words) are treated in the same way as regular names (proper nouns) and so do not require any article. If you are uncertain, please monitor usage in the media or consult a dictionary. The Commonwealth, the Fed, the EU, the WHO, the BBC, the FDA, the IAEA, etc. Compare: OPEC, NATO, ICANN, etc.
The is used for currencies: e.g. The U.S. dollar has risen against the yen but fallen against the euro. Conclusion to Chapter Two. The usage of the definite article is always a real problem fir not native speakers, especially when there are no article in their native language. In this chapter all possible examples of the definite article usage are provided. We should use the definite article to refer to something which has already been mentioned, when both the speaker and listener know what is being talked about, even if it has not been mentioned before, in sentences or clauses where we define or identify a particular person or object, to refer to objects we regard as unique, before superlatives and ordinal numbers, with adjectives, to refer to a whole group of people, with names of geographical areas and oceans, with decades, or groups of years.