The importance of the definite article

If you are in Austin and want to order a pizza from The Parlor (which you should–they’re quite good), and you don’t know their number by heart, you may have occasion to look in the alphabetical listings of the SWB yellow pages. If so, do not look under the Ps, because it ain’t alphabetized there. Look under the Ts.

Is it any wonder SWB has such a rotten reputation?

2 thoughts on “The importance of the definite article”

  1. Hey Adam, it’s Adam here. haha couldn’t resist. Anyway this post brought a chuckle from me, becuase i’ve been engaged in a heated debate about the definite vs indefinite article in english and ASL.

    Here’s the scoop, in Susan Berk Seligsons’ book The Bilingual Courtroom she mentions a study that was done on witness testimony and the use of the def. vs indef. articles in elicitations from the questioning attorney. 2 groups were shown identical videotapes of a traffic incident. Then each group was asked identical questions with the exception of the/a in the “Did you see a headlight out on the car as it went around the corner?” vs “Did you see a headlight out on the car as it went around the corner?”

    In fact there is No headlight out on any of the cars on the videotape. However, the definite article “the” implies existence.. and having heard the definite article, witness memory was altered.. the group that heard “the’ actually reported a headlight out.

    This gets sticky in Courtroom proceeding interpreting for ASL terps because ASL has NO articles. def or indef.

    My gut tells me there is still a clear way of dealing with this particular sentence form, but the debate is hot here about how exactly to accurately and faithfully translate the question, still conveying the intent (be it conscious, or unconscious) of the attorney in the elicitation.

    While this isn’t exactly what your post is about, I thought the conundrum would intrigue the linguist in you. :-)

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