How Can A Language Have neither?

It does sound impossible, since we as English speakers use articles on a routine basis. However, the Shoshone language proves that it can be possible, since it has neither of these articles. Instead, it makes use of demonstrative pronouns, but more specifically they make use of distance in order to convey the position of the noun without a lot of detail.

They make use of this/that, though in Shoshone, they do not necessarily just have that subject/object dichotomy, rather they also convey distance. This is used to convey a object that is within close proximity to the speaker, whereas that is used to convey an object that is far from the speaker.

For example: maseN refers to a subject noun as “This [noun] [within middle distance],” whereas useN refers to a subject noun as “That [noun] [out of sight].”

It ranges from “this right here” to “that out of sight.”


As such, Pimzarblan also makes use of demonstrative pronouns to refer to the this/that dichotomy as both proxemics and subject/object distinction. This is seen with rid/rorn and rim/rorm Of course, compared to Shoshone, the distinction only goes so far, since this as a subject relative pronoun refers to a close proxemic subject noun, whereas that as a subject refers to a distant proxemic subject noun. Nothing more in-depth is expressed–at least within these pronouns.

Rorn basubangs rorm gavimzaxpo tornspogweingso amonmbsoro.

That firedust-bow [gun] in that room will always belong to my brother.

With the use of those specific demonstrative pronouns, the speaker is indicating that the room that the firedust-bow belongs in a room far from the speaker’s personal proximity.

Of course, coming back to the installment about derivational relativity, the relative pronouns, who, whom, and that, are used, though they do not fit the role of compensating for the lack of articles. They are there to modify the noun into a neologism. What does fit within the role of article is the personal pronouns used in Pimzarblan to indicate the identity of the neologism.

Of course, the personal pronouns themselves do not articulate how much distance is involved. In order to specifically define how much proxemics are involved, the Pimzarblan sentence should include a periphrastic conveyance including the words “here” or “there.”

Einanzuwalng tmquo:rhilovio oranoxpo

[3rd-plur-subj.[to walk].past-temp-verbal. 3rd-plural-obj.deriv-relat.[to view].loc-over [here].loc-in]

We walked (at that point) to the diocese (nearby).

Of course, while I will discuss the ergativity of Pimzarblan later in the series, you will notice–to those who have a keen eye–that tmquo:rhilovio does NOT make use of either the animate absolutive case nor the inanimate case. That is because the pronoun teim, referring to the third-person plural object pronoun, is already understood to be the object pronoun, regardless of whether it is animate or not. The syntax is made perfectly clear that the diocese is derived from its toneless relative clause “them-who-view-over.”

This is similar to the installment about the variants of “to love,” since the locative nounal suffixes are used to convey distance. Instead of just conveying the intensity of the love, in this case, they can also convey the intensity of the distance. If the distance is in close proximity to the speaker, than the phrase “here-in” would be used, as is in the example; whereas if the speaker is far away, then the phrase “there-to” would be used.

Once again, the dialects would be different. Some market dialects would erode oranoxpo via phonological and grammatical reduction from “here-in” to ‘rnspo as the definite article.


  • Gould, Drusilla and Christopher Loether. “An Introduction to the Shoshoni Language (Dammen Daigwape).” University of Utah. 2002.

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