FW: Freshman Use of Articles

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Apr 16 22:58:07 UTC 2002

>All the articles in this sample composition are completely native to
>me (so if it is generational, it came before 1940).

More likely is the suggestion that there is regional distribution for
such items.

Another thesis.



>  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
>Is this a generational change, I wonder?

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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