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On Oct 19, 2008, at 11:18 AM, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:

> On 2008-10-19 Eric Christopherson wrote:
>> However, I am having trouble imagining the gradual steps involved  
>> in the loss of the distinction. I know that sometimes English uses  
>> the definite article to refer to things which aren't all that  
>> definite, especially in idioms (but then again, they're idioms!),  
>> so I can sort of imagine it, but not quite.
>
> The French articles are well underway to become
> number and gender markers instead of definiteness
> markers.

I'm very interested in details, since that's the very direction I was  
heading in asking that question -- I am considering a path gendered  
pronouns -> gendered definite articles -> gender markers required on  
nouns -> gender agreement markers required on adjectives.

Also, I've had some additional thoughts on my question. One is that  
such a loss of distinction could easily happen if the articles (or  
other sort of definiteness markers) were worn down by sound change.  
That isn't the case in my conlang though, since I want the articles  
to survive and become gender markers.

Also, it occurs to me that borrowing *between* languages, and  
pidginization, often blurs definiteness distinctions; for example,  
Arabic nouns in Spanish usually end up being borrowed with the  
definite article al-; and French nouns in Chinook Jargon and French- 
based pidgins and creoles often take their le/la/les with them. But I  
see that as a process distinct from such a neutralization within  
*one* language.