This chapter deals with the position of the definite article with respect to the noun in noun phrases. Three quarters of the APiCS languages have a definite article, which is either preposed, postposed, or circumposed:
|Definite article is preposed||44||5||49|
|Definite article is postposed||7||2||9|
|Definite article is circumposed||0||3||3|
|The language has no definite article||19||0||19|
As in Chapters 28 and 31, which treat definite articles from different perspectives, we define a definite article as a morpheme which accompanies nouns and which codes definiteness, like the in English. Definite articles need not be obligatory. Definite NPs are NPs whose referent can be uniquely identified by the hearer, as in anaphoric situations, to refer back to something mentioned in the preceding discourse (e.g. I bought a new bicycle... My husband likes the bicycle), or in associative contexts, to refer to something that is not mentioned in the preceding discourse but that is identifiable because of an associative relationship (e.g. I bought a new bicycle. The saddle is very comfortable; see also ex. (4) below).
In pidgin and creole languages, definite articles either go back to the definite article of the lexifier (as in many English-based languages), or they derive from adnominal demonstratives (‘that’, ‘this’) or locative demonstratives (‘there’) (see Chapter 28). In quite a few languages, they are still synchronically identical with demonstratives (see Chapter 31).
Definite articles are (or can be) preposed (value 1) in the great majority of APiCS languages. This includes all English-based languages (except for Tok Pisin and Bislama, which lack definite articles), as well as those Ibero-Romance-based creoles that have definite articles. In all these languages, the preposed definite articles derive from preposed articles or adnominal demonstratives in the lexifiers.
Preposed definite articles are also found in Dutch-based languages and in two French-based creoles of the Indian Ocean, Reunion Creole and Seychelles Creole. These definite articles, too, derive from Dutch and French articles/demonstratives, respectively.
The mixed language Michif also has preposed definite articles, adopted from French.
Postposed definite articles (value 2) are found only in French-based languages and in two African languages, Sango and Kinubi. Among the French-based languages, they occur as the usual order in the Caribbean languages Guyanais, Guadeloupean and Martinican Creole, in Haitian Creole, and in older varieties of Louisiana Creole.
In all these languages, they derive from postposed demonstratives. As Dryer (2005h) shows, demonstratives are overwhelmingly postposed in African languages, as well as in some languages on the western fringe of Europe (Basque and Celtic). French has preposed demonstratives, but these typically cooccur with postposed locative demonstratives, as in cette maison-là ‘that house’ (lit. ‘this house there’).
Lefebvre (1998: 81) argues that the syntactic and semantic properties of the postposed definite article in Haitian Creole derive from the substrate languages (for instance, Fongbe has a postposed definite article ɔ́, as in vǐ ɔ́ [child the] ‘the child’). But note that most of the properties of postposed la (or its phonological variants a, an, nan, lan in Haitian Creole) in Caribbean French creoles can be derived directly from the postposed French demonstrative -là, not only its shape and position, but also the fact that it cannot be used generically:
There is thus no need to invoke substrate influence here, because definite articles that were recently grammaticalized from demonstratives are not expected to have the generic use (in fact, even English the does not have it (yet)). Moreover, if the postposed Haitian Creole article were primarily due to the substrate, we would expect to find postposed definite articles in English-based languages, too.
However, in Haitian Creole, the definite article is postposed not only to the noun, but also to a modifier following the noun such as an adjective, a possessor, or even a relative clause:
This NP-final position is also found in Fongbe (Lefebvre 1998: 82), so this can be taken as an additional argument for the substrate effect. But we find this order of postposed la also in the Indian Ocean:
Whether the substrate explanation also extends to Mauritian (whose substrate languages are generally East African and Malagasy rather than West African) remains to be seen.
In a few languages, the definite article is circumposed (value 3), that is, it consists of two parts, one preposed and the other postposed. This option is not so uncommon with demonstratives (see Chapter 5 on the position of demonstratives in the noun phrase). With definite articles, it only occurs in two Chabacano varieties, in one variety of Louisiana Creole (though only with marginal frequency), and apparently in Belizean Creole (where di nɛt dɛ [the net there] is said to represent an article use by Escure 2013).
In Louisiana Creole, this has apparently arisen from the retention of the postposed 3rd person definite plural marker -ye (‘they’, cf. Chapter 25) in this conservative variety and the introduction of the preposed definite article from French (les). The origin of the “doubled” el (or kel) in Chabacano is more puzzling.
Nineteen languages lack definite articles (value 4). There is a concentration of such languages in the Pacific region, in central Africa, among the Portuguese-based languages of West Africa (as well as Korlai in India), among the Malay-based languages, and among the northern pidgins (Eskimo Pidgin, Chinuk Wawa, and Chinese Pidgin Russian). Malay varieties, Bantu languages, and the substrates of the northern pidgins lack definite articles, so we do not expect the APiCS languages to have them, but the absence of definite articles is somewhat more surprising in the Portuguese-based West African languages, in Palenquero, and in Juba Arabic.