Vol. 2:1 (2009) ► pp.1–17
Meaning differences in the use of the null vs. the definite articles
The case of the seasons
In this paper we present the results of a comparison analysis (quantitative and qualitative) of the rates of occurrence of the null article Ø2 against the definite article the referring specifically to the five names of the seasons. Instances of Ø2 in authentic contexts have previously only been minimally described; Chesterman (1991) places Ø2 at a higher level of definiteness than the while Master (1997) describes the choice between Ø2 and the as different degrees of familiarity. A revision of the latter, this paper’s findings — derived from corpus-linguistic analysis using MICASE (spoken) and the Brown corpus (written) — demonstrate that, very generally, when preceding the name of a season, Ø2 indicates a specific point in time or the start of a season while the indicates a period of time. The findings also reaffirm the strength of postmodification in determining the need for the definite article. One implication for English language teaching is discussed.