• The following sections of A Comprehensive Grammar of The English Language (Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartik, Longman, London & New York, 1985) were consulted in preparing this entry:
Central determiners: The articles
§5.11; 253-254 (& n.b. footnotes on page 254)
Specific and generic reference
Specific reference definite and indefinite
Uses of the indefinite article
Uses of the zero article
The articles in generic reference
The articles with abstract noncount nouns
1. The footnotes to §5.11, p254 deal with spelling and pronunciation variations of the articles.
2. The authors of CGEL refer to cases where no article is used before a common noun as uses of “the zero article.” I have not followed them in this because this terminology would certainly be confusing in a pedagogical context and, as far as I can see, the only theoretical gain from their point of view is that it enables them to say that proper nouns are used with no article while still maintaining a sharp distinction between common and proper nouns in terms of article use.
3. Here is what the authors of CGEL have to say about the article-like use of the determiner “some”(by way of explaining why it is not considered an article): “The difference between the uses of zero and of some may be summarized as follows. Unstressed some, although it is sometimes considered a plural article actually keeps its quantifying function and indicates reference to a specifiable (though indefinite) quantity or amount.” (§5.39, p 275)
4. In §5.37, p 273 The authors of CGEL say: “The indefinite article is strongly associated with the complement function in a clause; or more generally with noun phrases in a copular relationship. Here it has a descriptive role (similar to that of predicative adjectives) rather than a referring role.” Here, again, I have not followed them; first, because it seems that it would only cause confusion in a pedagogical context to say, after having explained article use in terms of reference, that a very common sort of article use was not referential at all; secondly, because it seems to me plausible to argue, pace the authors of CGEL, that these cases are, if not logically referential, still grammatically so. (One reason for taking this position is that here too, logically unique “references” are marked with an article: Franz Liszt was a great pianist. but Franz Liszt was the greatest pianist of his day.)