On Tue, 20 Nov 2012 09:15:29 -0800 Garth Wallace <[log in to unmask]> wrote: > On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 8:24 AM, David McCann > > A [indef specific] nice man helped me out. > > *A bus [indef non-specific] ran him over. > > Polynesian languages would use different articles here. > > I'm not sure what you mean by non-specific. Do you mean like in gnomic > sentences? I'm using "specific" as a linguistic term meaning "known to the speaker but not known to the hearer", as distinct from "indefinite" meaning simply "unknown to the hearer". As I said, Polynesian languages have a specific / nonspecific contrast in articles instead of a definite / indefinite one. The concept also shows up in indefinite pronouns/adjectives: Someone [specific] called while you were out: you'll never guess who it was. Someone [indefinite] called while you were out, but she wouldn't leave her name. In English "someone" serves for both, but "some" cannot be specific. Latin distinguishes "quidam" and "aliquis", while some languages (e.g. Hausa, Quechua) lack a specific indefinite. I was a bit over the top with my "*A bus ran him over"; I should have written "?A bus ran him over": odd, but not totally ungrammatical.