Definite determiners in Norwegian
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The occurrence of a Noun without a determiner, or Adj + Noun without a determiner, is in principle allowed in Norwegian, but with two restrictions, one very sharp, and one less sharp.
The sharp restriction is:
A definite (also called 'weak') adjective has to be preceded by a definite article or a demonstrative.
This means that strings like the following are ungrammatical (the asterisk means 'ungrammatical'):
- svarte katten ('black cat')
(correct: den svarte katten' ('the black cat')')
- gale avgjørelsene ('wrong decisions')
(correct: de gale avgjørelsene)
(Note that since plural strong adjective and weak adjective are of the same form, a lone-occurring form like svarte or gale, although ungrammatical as a weak form, can in principle have a plural interpretation.)
The less sharp restriction is:
A singular indefinite noun with countable interpretation (with or without an adjective preceding it) is often not felicitous without a determiner preceding it.
The exact conditions for when felicity obtains are not easy to pin down, and the topic is much discussed, under the heading ‘Bare Singulars’.
Another tendency to be aware of is that the pattern of a demonstrative preceding an indefinite form, as in den svarte katt', is best used with abstract reference or referring to types, whereas in a discourse context where referents are known and concrete, a definite form of the noun is preferred together with the demonstrative, as in den svarte katten' (i.e., a pattern called 'double definiteness').
The Determiner system
One often talks as if there is just one determiner per NP. However, the determiner system constitutes a whole field of items, strictly ordered and with some restructions on cooccurrence.
Numerals are non-inflected items, occurring generally before adjectives but after any of the other items standardly counted as definite determiners. Numerals themselves are neutral with regard to definiteness. Possible sequences are thus
tre små griser 'three little pigs'
de tre små grisene 'the three little pigs'
disse tre små grisene 'these three little pigs'
alle de tre små grisene 'all the three little pigs'
alle disse tre små grisene 'all these three little pigs'
Possible are also de tre små griser, disse tre små griser, alle de tre små griser, alle disse tre små griser.
The illformedness of
- tre (små) grisene
shows the existence of a restriction analogous to the one above:
A numeral preceding a definite noun has to be preceded by a definite determiner.
Genitives - possessive NPs and possessive pronouns
The term 'genitive' here subsumes possessive pronouns and NPs with an -s attached at the end (without apostrophe). Possessive pronouns come in three patterns, one comprising min ('my'), din ('your'), sin (reflexive 'his', 'her'), another comprising hans ('his'), hennes ('her'), dens ('its', masc and fem.), dets ('its', neut.), dennes ('this one's', masc and fem.), dettes ('that one's', neuter), deres (your', plur., and 'their', plur.), and the third comprising vår ('our'). The words in the second group do not inflect (being essensially the personal pronoun plus -s), while the first group inflects much like adjectives, exemplifying with min:
with a masculine singular noun: min with a feminine singular noun: mi with a neuter singular noun: mitt with a plural noun, any gender: mine
Vår has the pattern
with a masculine singular noun: vår with a feminine singular noun: vår with a neuter singular noun: vårt with a plural noun, any gender: våre
Genitives occupy the position otherwise held by the definite article, and they may be said to induce a definiteness effect in that they require the weak form of the adjective. Contrary to the definite article, however, the ensuing noun has to be in indefinite form (parenthesis indicating that the well- or illformedness indicated for the example prevails in the presence of either of the parenthesized words):
mine (tre) (små) griser ('my (three) (small) pigs') min (lille) gris ('my (little) pig') *min (lille) grisen *mine (tre) (små) grisene den rike bondens (tre) (små) griser ('the rich farmer's (three) (small) pigs') den rike bondens (lille) gris *den rike bondens (tre) (små) grisene
For possessive pronouns, another position of occurrence is immediately after the noun, which then has to be in definite form:
grisen min *gris min den lille grisen min de tre grisene mine *den lille gris min *lille grisen min *tre grisene mine
The last two examples show that also for this use of definite nouns, the requirements above imposed by preceding weak adjectives and numerals hold.