Article as a part of speech. Theoretical and practical aspects
The issues relevant to the nature of the English article have been the focus of attention of early descriptive English Grammar books since the 16th century and it is intensively studied nowadays.
In the 16th -18th centuries the article was considered as a noun determiner. There was, however, a different point of view when the article was included into the adjective. Besides, there existed different approaches to English articles. According to G. Mironets, the article was considered as part of the Noun, as a separate part of speech and as a particle. The terms ”definite” and ”indefinite” were first used by J.Howell in 1662 [45, c.56].
Being aware of numerous points of view regarding the status of the article in the English language we share the view presented by B. Khaimovich and B. Rogovskaya who considered the article a separate part of speech. They consider that the two words a(an), the form a separate group or class characterized by:
a) the lexico-grammatical meaning of ”(in)definiteness”,
b) the right-hand combinability with nouns,
c) the function of noun specifiers [52, c.214]
The lexical meaning of a(n) in Modern English is a very weak reminder of its original meaning (OE. an=one). In spite of the long process of weakening there remains enough of the original meaning in a(n) to exclude the possibility of its being attached to a ”plural” noun.
The lexical meaning of the in Modern English is a pale shadow of its original demonstrative meaning.
The general lexico-grammatical meaning of these words, as usual, is not identical with their individual lexical meanings. It abstracts itself from the meaning of ”oneness” in a(n) and the ”demonstrative” meaning in the. Perhaps, the names of the articles (”definite”, ”indefinite”) denote the nearest approach to this lexico-grammatical meaning, which, for lack of a better term, might be defined as that of ”definiteness-indefiniteness” [52, c.215].
The article is a form word that serves as a noun determiner. It is one of the main means of conveying the idea of definiteness and indefiniteness.
Definiteness suggests that the object presented by the following noun is individualized and singled out from all the other objects of the same kind, whereas indefiniteness means a more general reference to an object [20, c.75].
The lexical meaning of the English articles is determined by its historical development. That is why after considering the historical development of the English articles their rendering into Ukrainian and Russian becomes obvious. Under the influence of the historical processes that took place both in phonetical and grammatical structure of the English language the article as a part of speech has undergone major changes. Its origin goes deep into the history of the English language both definite and indefinite articles. This explains the fact that when translating articles we get equivalents (in other languages) of various types. That is why we consider it necessary to present all stages of the historical formation of the English article.