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.