Tuesday, November 30, 2010


There is no definite or indefinite article in Bosnian (or, I think, in any Slavic language)—no “the” or “a.” When I first learned this, it boggled my mind. How can you communicate without articles? In practice, though, I’m amazed at how seldom I miss them.

It does mean, however, that Bosnians have a hard time figuring out when to use articles. David bought this notebook for Isaac to use in his math class, and we were all amused at the use of the definite article.

But then I tried to figure out why it’s wrong. I have no idea, actually. Emma Lucy’s guess is the best I’ve heard so far: “space” is a mass noun (one that you can’t count) so you don’t use an article, while “universe” is a countable noun, so it does take the article. Any thoughts?

Makes me glad I learned English as a baby and didn’t have to figure out some rule for using articles on my own.


Nathan said...

I think Emma Lucy is right. If you were referring to the space in the closet, you could say, "exploring the space" because it is one specific space. Interesting.

PS - We sure like your blog.

Annette said...

I sure like having you all read it!

Joanne said...

I agree that Emma Lucy is ABSOLUTELY correct. My biggest pet peeve is incorrectly talking about things that are countable vs. things that are a mass. For example, people will talk about parties winning an amount (rather than number) of votes. Students who do that get my especially annoyed comment notations.