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5.1. Articles

Table 1 shows that Dutch has three overt articles: two definite ones, de and het, and one indefinite one, een. The definite articles are sensitive to gender and number distinctions: de is used with singular non-neuter and plural nouns, whereas the definite article het occurs with singular neuter nouns. These two definite articles can also be used with non-count nouns. The indefinite article een is sensitive to number only; it normally only occurs with singular count nouns. It has therefore been suggested that it has a phonetically empty plural/non-count counterpart, represented by “∅” in the table. That we are dealing with a null form is also supported by the fact that both een and ∅ have a negative counterpart, which is geen'no' in both cases.

Table 1: Articles
  count nouns non-count nouns
  singular plural  
definite non-neuter de vrouw
the woman
de vrouwen
the women
de wijn
the wine
  neuter het meisje
the girl
de meisjes
the girls
het bier
the beer
indefinite non-neuter een vrouw
a woman
  neuter een meisje
a girl
negative non-neuter geen vrouw
no woman
no women
geen wijn
no wine
  neuter geen meisje
no girl
geen meisjes
no girls
geen bier
no beer

      The definite and indefinite articles ( de/het/een) are normally pronounced with a schwa (/ə/). Moreover, the initial consonant of the definite neuter article het is normally not pronounced. The weak (phonological reduced) form of het can be expressed orthographically by the apostrophe notation (cf. ’ t), which is also available for the indefinite article een (cf. ’ n). In careful speech (“officialese” and the like) or when the article is stressed, the neuter definite article can be pronounced as [hεt]; the indefinite article een can be pronounced with a full vowel [e:], and is then homophonous to the numeral één'one'.

Example 4
Colloquial speech
Careful speech
a. de: [də]
b. het/’t: [ət]
b'. het: [hεt]
c. een/’n: [ən]
c'. een: [e:n]
d. geen: [ɣe:n]

      Unlike the German articles, the Dutch articles do not decline; apart from some historical relics, their form is invariant in all syntactic environments. This is shown for the definite non-neuter article de in the primeless examples in (5), but the same thing holds for the other articles. The primed examples give the German translations of the Dutch examples for comparison.

Example 5
a. De man is ziek.
a'. Dernom Mann ist krank.
  the  man  is  ill
b. Ik heb de man gisteren ontmoet.
b'. Ich habe denacc Mann gestern begegnet.
  have  the  man  yesterday  met
c. Ik heb de man het boek aangeboden.
c'. Ich habe demdat Mann das Buch angeboten.
  have  the  man  the book  prt.-offered

      According to the DP structure of noun phrases, the article is the syntactic head of the noun phrase, and as such is responsible for several semantic (and syntactic) properties of the noun phrase as a whole. These semantic properties of definite and indefinite articles are discussed in Section 5.1.1. Section 5.1.2 discusses noun phrases that normally do not contain an article, such as noun phrases consisting of a proper noun; in this section, special emphasis will be put on those cases that exceptionally do license an article. Section 5.1.3 continues with a brief discussion of definite articles with acronyms and abbreviations, and Section 5.1.4 discusses articles exhibiting deviant semantics. This section concludes in 5.1.5 with a section entirely devoted to the negative article geen: this is motivated by the fact that geen exhibits several properties that set it apart from the other articles.

    This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
    A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.