The Origin of the Article in Indo-European Languages of Western Europe

Elena Andreevna Makarova, Vladimir Nikolaevich Polyakov


This paper is concerned with the origin of the article in Indo-European languages of Western Europe. Several hypotheses concerning the origin of the article are studied, including the hypothesis of spontaneous and independent development, the Arabic-origin hypothesis, the Hebrew-origin hypothesis and the Biblical-origin hypothesis. We suggest that the main source of article borrowing into the ancient languages of Western Europe (Germanic and Romance) was the Bible. Supposedly, the grammatical category in question penetrated into the languages when the Bible was translated into national languages. We present a historical analysis of literary monuments in Old French, Old Spanish, Old German, and Old English. This shows that these languages had acquired the article before the Bible was translated into the mentioned national languages. It allows us to suppose that Ulfilas’ Gothic Bible, which appeared earlier, was the source of penetration of the article into Western European languages. This assumption is based on the analysis of literary monuments in ancient languages spoken in Europe, as well as on the comparison of the geographical spread of the article in European languages and the map of Gothic conquests in the 6th century AD. Some of the research draws upon the electronic linguistic resources WALS (, the “Languages of the World” database of Institute of Linguistics of Russian Academy of Sciences, and the data of ASJP project (http://asjp.clld. org/).

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n5s4p61

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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