FW: Freshman Use of Articles

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Tue Apr 16 21:34:34 UTC 2002

The paragraph as a whole is too sophisticated to be typical of NNS English
(I've had NNSs/writers for 25 years and can spot NN writing almost
immediately).  I've seen this use of "the" in NS writing occasionally but
have never thought of it as regional.  I wonder if the writer, triggered by
"the United States," "the world," and "the planet" is thinking of "the
citizens/consumers [of the U.S./the world/the planet]" as a specific
subgroup rather than as a generic or nonspecific whole.  And I'd be
surprised if some British English writers might not do the same!

At 01:20 PM 4/16/02 -0700, you wrote:
>  This sounds like non-native English or baby talk to me.  Perhaps this
> 'new' usage is regional, because I do not think I have encountered it
> here (in Oregon).
>Ellen--I've been pondering this linguistic phenomenon among our Berry
>students since I came here and now I can say for certain that their use of
>the definite article conflicts with mine!
>Here's one student's opening paragraph of the recent comp exam. I've
>bolded the uses of the definite article that I would deem a violation of
>(traditional) usage. Let me know what you think.
>"Fuel efficiency throughout the United States, and throughout the world as
>well, is becoming a major issue in today's society. The citizens are not
>taking into consideration what they are actually doing to the planet, or
>they might not even know that technically they could be putting themselves
>in danger in the long run. New things are being introduced in Washington,
>DC and bills are being passed to help the consumers understand exactly
>what is going on that could possibly be detrimental. Raising fuel
>efficiency would be very important, especially for Sport Utility Vehicles
>and Trucks, becuase it will limit the foreign oil intake, help the
>consumers save money while pumping their own gas, and also to help reduce
>global warming."
>The concept at issue is, of course, the notion of what constitutes
>definiteness. In British English, for example, we would never talk about
>"the society" for a general concept especially is if it is used as a mass
>noun to boot. General categories never take a definite article in British
>English. If we mean "people in general"--even within our own society--we
>would never say "the people."
>Is this a generational change, I wonder?

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

More information about the Ads-l mailing list