Definiteness  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In grammatical theory, definiteness is a feature of noun phrases, distinguishing between entities which are specific and identifiable in a given context (definite noun phrases) and entities which are not (indefinite noun phrases).

There is considerable variation in the expression of definiteness across languages: some languages use a definite article (which can be a free form, a phrasal clitic, or an affix on the noun) to mark a definite noun phrase. Examples are:

Germanic, Romance, Celtic, Semitic, and auxiliary languages generally have a definite article, sometimes used as a postposition. Many other languages do not. Some examples are Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, and the Slavic languages except Bulgarian and Macedonian. When necessary, languages of this kind may indicate definiteness by other means such as Demonstratives.

It is common for definiteness to interact with the marking of case in certain syntactic contexts. In many languages direct objects (DOs) receive distinctive marking only if they are definite. For example in Turkish, the DO in the sentence Template:Lang (meaning "I saw the men") is marked with the suffix Template:Lang (indicating definiteness). The absence of the suffix means that the DO is indefinite ("I saw men").

In Serbo-Croatian (and in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian), and to a lesser extent in Slovene, definiteness can be expressed morphologically on prenominal adjectives. The short form of the adjective is interpreted as indefinite (Template:Lang "a new city"), while the long form is definite and/or specific (Template:Lang "the new city, a certain new city").

In Japanese, a language which indicates noun functions with postpositions, the topic marker (wa) may include definiteness. For example, Template:Lang (uma wa) can mean "the horse", while Template:Lang (uma ga) can mean "a horse".

In some languages, the definiteness of the object affects the transitivity of the verb. In the absence of peculiar specificity marking, it also tends to affect the telicity of monooccasional predications.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Definiteness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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