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Function of the definite article

The definite article indicates that the domain of discourse is constructed in such a way that its Noun Phrase (NP) has a unique referent in a local domain of discourse. This implies that its NP is a topic that is either familiar from the preceding discourse, or is common knowledge which is known anyhow to the discourse participants.


For a referent to become familiar, it must first be introduced into the discourse. Indefinites are used to signal the first introduction of a new referent in the discourse. The following discourse illustrates this:

Example 1

Der wie in frou yn 'e winkel en dy hie wat stellen. Doe kaam de plysje, mar de frou woe de boete net betelje
there was a woman in the shop and she had something stolen then came the police but the woman wanted the fine not pay
There was a woman in the shop and she had stolen something. Then the police came, but the woman did not want to pay the fine

In this example, the discourse has made the NP frou woman a familiar referent. A definite NP like the president or the boss bears the definite article because this referent is already known to the discourse participants; this referent directly conjures up a familiar discourse.