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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

Come from the demonstrative pronouns


Now,

since it is very evident that, as far as the sense is concerned, the words _some man_, _a certain man_, and _a man_, are much the same, an exception may be taken to the statement that in Greek and Moeso-Gothic there is no indefinite article. It may, in the present state of the argument, be fairly said that the words _sum_ and [Greek: tis] are pronouns with a certain sense, and that _a_ and _an_ are no more; consequently, that in Greek the indefinite article is [Greek: tis], in Moeso-Gothic _sum_, and in English _a_ or _an_.

A distinction, however, may be made. In the expression [Greek: aner tis] (_anaer tis_) = _a certain man_, or _a man_, and in the expression _sum mann_, the words _sum_ and [Greek: tis] preserve their natural and original meaning; whilst in _a man_ and _an ox_ the words _a_ and _an_ are used in a secondary sense. These words, as is currently known, are one and the same, the n, in the form _a_, being ejected through a euphonic process. They are, moreover, the same words with the numeral _one_; Anglo-Saxon, _['a]n_; Scotch, _ane_. Now, between the words _a man_ and _one man_, there is a difference in meaning; the first expression being the most indefinite. Hence comes the difference between the English and Moeso-Gothic expressions. In the one the word _sum_ has a natural, in the other, the word _an_ has a secondary power.

The same reasoning applies to the word _the_. Compared with _a man_, the

words _the man_ are very definite. Compared, however, with the words _that man_, they are the contrary. Now, just as _an_ and _a_ have arisen out of the numeral _one_, so has _the_ arisen out of the demonstrative pronoun _thaet_, or at least from some common root. It will be remembered that in Anglo-Saxon there was a form _the_, undeclined, and common to all the cases of all the numbers.

In no language in its oldest stage is there ever a word giving, in its primary sense, the ideas of _a_ and _the_. As tongues become modern, some noun with a _similar_ sense is used to express them. In the course of time a change of form takes place, corresponding to the change of meaning; e.g., _one_ becomes _an_, and afterwards a. Then it is that articles become looked upon as separate parts of speech, and are dealt with accordingly. No invalidation of this statement is drawn from the Greek language. Although the first page of the etymology gives us [Greek: ho], [Greek: he], [Greek: to] (_ho, hae, to_), as the definite articles, the corresponding page in the syntax informs us, that, in the oldest stage of the language, [Greek: ho] (_ho_) = _the_, had the power of [Greek: houtos] (_howtos_) = _this_.

The origin of the articles seems uniform. In German _ein_, in Danish _en_, stand to _one_ in the same relation that _an_ does. The French _un_, Italian and Spanish _uno_, are similarly related to _unus_ = _one_.

And as, in English, _the_, in German _der_, in Danish _den_, come from the demonstrative pronouns, so, in the classical languages, are the French _le_, the Italian _il_ and _lo_, and the Spanish _el_, derived from the Latin demonstrative _ille_.


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