Theoretical and practical aspects of the article in Modern English
The linguistic status of the article. Noun: the category of determination. Indefinite meaning expressed by a/an. The definite article the. Cataphoric the as heavily concentrated in non-fiction writing. Percentage use of reference for definite phrases.
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Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
Kyiv National Linguistic University
Chair of Germanic and Finno-Ugrian Philology
Theoretical grammar of the English language
«Theoretical and practical aspects of the article in Modern English»
Міністерство освіти і науки України
Київський національний лінгвістичний університет
Кафедра германської і фіно-угорської філології
з теоретичної граматики англійської мови
« Теоретичний та практичний аспекти вивчення артикля в сучасній англійській мові»
The theme of course paper is «Theoretical and practical aspects of the article in Modern English». The topicality of course work is connected with contrоversial article usage in Modern English. The articles perform a discourse function, by indicating new and old information. And this function is realized in practice through certain articles usage. The problem of article determination has given rise to much controversy; there is much dispute about the status of the article itself and the status of its combination with the noun. The article is often defined as a unit whose main function is to actualize the concept of the referent in a particular text; in other words, the article correlates the notion of the referent with actual reality subjectively, as presented by the speaker (writer).
The object of course paper is: indefinite meaning expressed by articles a/an and zero article, usage of the definite article the with examples being selected from the novel « Everything is illuminated» by Jonathan Safran Foer.
The aim of course paper is to investigate the linguistic status of the article in Modern English along with its main function of noun determiner providing main tendencies in article usage with examples from the novel « Everything is illuminated».
The task of course paper is to show the articles applying tendencies based on their usages, most of which can not be fully underpinned by general rules.
1. The linguistic status of the article
The question is: is the article a separate part of speech or a word morpheme? If we treat the article as a word, we shall have to admit that English has only two articles - the definite article the and the indefinite article a/an. But if we treat the article as a word-morpheme, we shall have three articles - the, a/an and the zero article ш. B.Ilyish states that the choice between the two alternatives remains a matter of opinion. The scholar gives a slight preference to the view that the article is a word, but argues that: « we cannot for the time being at least prove that it is the only correct view of the English article ». [12;57]
M.Blokh regards the article as a special type of grammatical auxiliary: «The article itself is a special type of grammatical auxiliary»[1; 85] Linguists are only agreed on the function of the article: the article is a determiner, or a restricter. The linguistic status of the article reminds us of the status of shall/will in I shall/will go. Both of the structures are still felt to be semantically related to their `parent' structures: the numeral one and the demonstrative that (Old English sз) and the modals shall and will, respectively. The articles, according to some linguists, do not form a grammatical category. As is pointed out by B.Khaimovich and Rogovskaya: «the members of an opposeme must belong to the same lexeme and have identical meanings» [7;214] The articles, they argue, do not belong to the same lexeme, and they do not have meaning common to them: a/an has the meaning of oneness, not found in the, which has a demonstrative meaning. For this reason, they argue, a book and the book are not analytic structures.
B. Ylyish thinks that: «There seems to be nothing to prevent us from thinking that a room is an analytical form of the noun room...»[12;57] If we treat the article as a morpheme, then we shall have to set up a grammatical category in the noun, the category of determination. This category will have to have all the characteristic features of a grammatical category: common meaning and distinctive meaning. So what is common to a room and the room?
Both nouns are restricted in meaning, they refer to an individual member of the class `room'. What makes them distinct is that a room has the feature (-Definite), while the room has the feature (+Definite). In this opposition the definite article is the strong member and the indefinite article is the weak member. The same analysis can be extended to abstract and concrete countable nouns, e.g. courage: a courage vs. the courage. Consider: He has a courage equaled by few of his contemporaries vs. She would never have the courage to defy him. In contrast to countables, restricted uncountables are used with two indefinite articles: a/an and zero. The role of the indefinite article is to individuate a subamount of the entity which is presented here as an aspect (type, sort) of the entity. Consider also: Jim has a good knowledge of Greek, where a denotes a subamount of knowledge, Jim's knowledge of Greek. A certain difficulty arises when we analyze such sentences as The horse is an animal and I see a horse. Do these nouns also form the opposemes of the category of determination? We think that they do not: the horse is a subclass of the animal class; a horse is also restricted - it denotes an individual member of the horse subclass. Cf.
The horse is an animal vs. A horse is an animal. Unlike the nouns in the above examples, the nouns here exhibit determination at the same level: both the horse and a horse express a subclass of the animal class.
2. Noun: The Category of Determination
Modern English grammars normally refer articles to determiners, words preceding nouns. They are often defined as: «a problem area in English for students even at advanced level, especially for those whose own language has a very different article system»[11; 272] «Article is a determining unit of specific nature accompanying the noun in communicative collocation»[1; 74]
« The articles of English serve the functions of determining or pointing out the particularized or generalized nature or aspect of the meaning of the nouns or words they modify »[2; 45]
The term determination, as used here, means the actualization of the functions (semantic, grammatical, informational, and pragmatic) of the noun. [15;56]
Semantic determination of the noun
Semantically, the noun presents a dialectical unity of genus (class) and individual. In the text, it may be actualized as a representative of the class or a subclass as a whole or as an individual member of the class or a subclass.
Consider the following sentences:
1. The dog is an animal.
2. A dog is an animal.
3. Any dog is an animal.
4. Dogs are animals.
5. All dogs are animals.
6. I see a dog.
7. The dog is under the table.
These sentences illustrate different types of semantic determination (or restriction): in sentences (1-5) the noun dog refers to the subclass as a whole; in sentences (6 and 7) the noun dog refers to an individual member of the subclass. As for the `subclass' function, the sentences demonstrate different subtypes of determination: in sentence (1) the subclass is presented as an undifferentiated (indiscrete) unit, which reminds us of mass nouns (abstract or material); in sentences (2 and 3) the subclass is represented through a typical individual member; in sentences (4 and 5) the subclass is represented through individual members. As the said sentences describe a generalized situation, the nouns in them do not refer to a specific member or specific members of the subclass; they only denote a specific subclass. Only in sentences (6 and 7) do they refer to a specific (concrete) member. Specificity is of two types: particular and non-particular, or to put it in traditional terms, definite and indefinite. There is only one problem here: how should we treat the article used with the noun dog in the first sentence? Does it function as a particularizer? It does. To understand this we can consider the diagram:
Each square in the section The dog subclass stands for an individual representative of the subclass. If we mean any representative of the subclass, we say, a dog; if we mean a particular (unique) representative of the subclass, we say the dog. It will be obvious that any member can be rendered particular.
A different situation is observed when we deal with the animal class as a whole. Here each big square stands for a subclass: dogs, cats, horses, cows, sheep, whales, dolphins, etc. Each subclass is unique, there is only one such subclass in the animal class. That is, we cannot say any dog subclass. Cf. any dog. We can only say the dog subclass.
The constr uction the dog in The dog is an animal is then the result of the elision of the noun subclass (Cf. The river Thames the Thames vs. the subclass `dog' the dog), and the article the is a reminder of the elision. Functionally, subclass is similar to river in the river Thames and dog is similar to Thames in the same construction, dog and Thames are identifying , or particularizing names. However, the result of the elision may also be a construction in which the identifying name is preceded by the zero article, e.g. the writer Dickens, the continent Europe, the country Italy Dickens, Europe, Italy.
These are proper nouns proper, while those with the definite article are still in the process of development.
Uncountable nouns do not much differ from countables as concerns the realization of the category of determination: in the text they may be actualized as representatives of the entities as a whole or an individual manifestation of the entities.
1. Beauty is rare.
2. They had a courage that no defeats would crush.
3. Mary's beauty simply paralysed him.
In sentence (1) the noun beauty stands for the entity as a whole; in sentence (2 and 3) the nouns courage and beauty refer to an individual manifestation of entities: courage denotes a non-particular, specific manifestation (aspect) and beauty, a particular, specific manifestation of the notion.How important is the article as a semantic determiner? The definite article generally needs the support of the co-text: off the co-text nouns determined by the definite article are semantically ambiguous, e.g. the dog, the robbery of old people.
Does the dog mean a specific particular dog or a particular class? Does the noun robbery mean a specific or a particular manifestation of the entity? We cannot answer the question without recourse to the cotext. Only the indefinite article is an unambiguous marker: it marks the noun as an individual representative or an individual aspect of the entity. However, it cannot tell us whether the noun means a specific or a non-specific individual. The conclusion that we can draw from this analysis is that language often needs more than one signal to realize its meanings, the most powerful signal being the context or the co-text.
Grammatical determination of the noun
The article is generally treated as a marker of the noun - full or partial, e.g. a man, the rich. However, not all nouns are invariably used with the `material' article, e.g. strength. Even countables are not always preceded by the material article, e.g. books. Besides the article, nouns are identified in the sentence by other determiners (pronouns, numerals), prepositions, by the presence of appropriate affixes, their relative position. The role of the article is often secondary, or supplementary. To prove this, compare the texts below: the original and its version in which the nouns have been stripped of the articles:
It was a hot day. The two windows opened upon the distant murmur of London. The burning sun of July danced on the rosy and grey waters of the Thames (J.Galsworthy).
It was hot day. Two windows opened upon distant murmur of London. Burning sun of July danced on rosy and grey waters of Thames
Despite the absence of the articles in the second text, the reader still finds the passage comprehensible from a semantic point of view. The elimination of the definite article from the word-combination two windows only affects the communicative structure of the sentence as compared to the original: the two windows conveys thematic information, while two windows conveys rhematic information. Yet, we should not minimize the role of the article as a noun-marker: the article speeds up the process of identification and, consequently, it speeds up the process of the comprehension of the text.
Informational determination of the noun
“Information is a process of interaction between what is already known or predictable and what is new or unpredictable”. The sentence, which is a unit of information, is a structure made up of two parts: the New and the Given. By Given Information is meant information shared by both the speaker and the addressee: it may be recoverable from the context or familiar to them due to the shared environment. Besides the context, Givenness and Newness can be expressed by the definite and indefinite article, respectively.
Consider the following text:
A man and a woman were sitting on a park bench. The man was about forty years old. The woman was somewhat younger. The bench had recently been painted.
How important is the definite article as a marker of Givenness? In this type of text, where Givenness is established through the secondary mention of the entity, the article plays a supplementary role. But in texts where Givenness is established through the shared knowledge of the environment or the world in general, the article plays a primary role.
A. Where did you find the cat?
R. In the car.
When Givennes is not marked in any way, the text may lose communicative cohesion.
Consider the following part of the text:
It was a hot day. Two windows opened upon the distant murmur of London.
The text “comes off its hinges”: the referents of two windows are not treated as part of the shared environment; the use of the indefinite article, i.e. the zero article, suggests that the author speaks of some other two windows, not the windows of the shared environment. In other words, the zero article signals to the reader that two windows is new information.
Pragmatic determination of the noun
Pragmatically, the noun can function as the Theme and the Rheme. The Theme is what we are talking about, and the Rheme is what we are saying about the Theme. Naturally, an utterance containing only the Rheme will not be undersood , the same with utterences containing the Theme only.
We can consider following examples:
The ship (Theme) was glistening in the sun (Rheme).
Themes are generally selected from Given while Rhemes from both New and Given entities.
John (Theme) wrote a novel (Rheme). vs. John (Theme) wrote the novel(Rheme).
The Theme and the Rheme may be signalled by the article: the Theme by the definite article and the Rheme by both indefinite and definite.
A strange dog came to the porch. The dog seemed very friendly.
Generic reference of articles
Reference is generic when a noun phrase refers to the whole class, rather than just one or more instances of the class. In the English language all three articles (the, a/an, zero article) can be used for generic reference. According to this we it is possible to distinguish such types of generic reference:
Definite Generic: the + Singular Noun
The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct.
Plural Generic: 0 + Plural Noun [0 = Zero, the number]
Tigers are in danger of becoming extinct.
Indefinite Generic: a + Singular Noun
A tiger is in danger of becoming extinct.
These are constructions, which means that the phrase itself, and its usage, have special grammar and special meanings. It's not that the articles the or a have special meaning, really -- they hardly have any meaning; rather, their use in these generic constructions marks them as special.
As to use and meaning, while there are many, many special cases and idioms, one can roughly equate the three generic noun phrase constructions with three different functions. Each refers to some species (of plant, animal, thing, person, cathedral, or whatever; not just biological species), but there are several ways of doing this:
The Definite Generic refers to the Prototype of a species, roughly the image we associate with tiger. The tiger, as a prototype, has all the properties of anything we would call a tiger, except that it doesn't exist in an individual physical sense, like all real tigers do. This is a very abstract concept, and its use signals that the speaker is theorizing.
The tiger is big means the speaker believes that "bigness", in some comparative context, is a characteristic property of tigers, that we should expect this to be true of any tiger.
The Plural Generic refers to the Norm of a species over its individuals, as perceived, of course, by the speaker, who is unlikely to have conducted tiger surveys, so the "statistics" here are very vague and impressional.
Tigers are big means the speaker believes that, on the average, any tiger is likely to be "big". This doesn't mean all tigers are big, though that's close. This is potentially a less abstract concept, since its use implies a generalization based on experience of several individuals.
The Indefinite Generic refers to the Definition of a species, that is, those properties that are absolutely necessary for anything to be a member. It doesn't work as the subject of any predicate that isn't definitional. But with a definitional property, it's certainly true for any member.
However, the sentence A tiger is in danger of becoming extinct.
one is saying that being in danger of becoming extinct is one of the defining characteristics of tigerhood, which isn't true, after all. Tigers would still be tigers if they weren't endangered.
3. Indefinite meaning expressed by a/an
The indefinite article expresses classification, or relative, classifying generalization of the referent, which means that this article refers the object denoted to a certain class.
Specific use of a/an
The indefinite article is often used while introducing a new specific entity into the discourse.
A 12- year old boy got mad on his parents Friday night because they refused to let him go fishing on the Colorado River with relatives. So, while his parents were distracted during a barbecue with eight adult friends, he slipped away from his sister and three brothers, snatched the keys to a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off in one of his parent's four cars, prompting fears that he had been kidnapped <…..> El Cajon police sent teletype descriptions of the curly haired , 90-pound sixth-grader to law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California and the Arizona border area. The boy was found unharmed - but scared and sleepy - at about noon yesterday by San Diego Country sheriff 's deputies. (news)
The indefinite article a (12- year old boy) introduces a pecific, but unnamed and unknown boy; afterwards the boy is referred to by pronouns (him, he) and definite noun phrase (the curly haired , 90-pound sixth-grader and the boy).
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - December 7, 2013 (WPVI)
A teenager who disappeared nearly two months ago mailed her mother a letter several weeks after she was last seen, law enforcement officials said Friday <…..> Law enforcement officials said the letter, which they called unprecedented in similar investigations, has given them hope, though they still have "grave concerns" for her safety <…..> Police asked people to be on the lookout for the dark-haired girl <…> "We implore Abby that if she hears this, if she's able to see this, contact us," she said. "We will do everything we can to reunite the girl with her mother. (news)
The discovery of a mysterious blonde girl at a Roma camp in Greece has spurred more than 10,000 phone calls and emails to the charity trying to identify her <….>The girl, who was discovered in the home of a couple with 13 other children, speaks only a Roma dialect and is believed to be around four years old. The couple have been charged with kidnapping and police say they have given at least five different accounts of how the child came to be with them. 
Unspecific use of a/an
The indefinite article is also used where the noun phrase does not refer to any specific individual:
I'm looking for a millionaire, she says, but I don't see any around.(conv)
I feel terrible, I need a friend.
A millionaire and a friend are unspecific and mean 'any person of that kind'.
« They required a driver, guide, and translator for a young man who would be in Lutsk at the dawn of the month of July…» [10; 17]
«It is near 50 kilometers from Lutsk,” Father said. “He possesses a map and is sanguine of the coordi nates. It should be simple.” » [10; 18]
«“Have you ever had a girlfriend?” I asked the hero. “Have you?” “I am inquiring you.”» [10; 84]
«I've never eaten a picture.» [10; 10]
«I will never kiss a woman.» [10; 260]
«But once you get a girlfriend, well, you know.” “I know very well.”» [10; 85]
Classifying or generic use of a/an
The indefinite article can also serve to classify an entity:
My brother is a doctor (classifying)
or to refer generically to what is typical of any member of the class as in:
A doctor is not better that his patient (generic)
« But I do not do these things because we are a family…» (classifying) [10; 49]
« If you want to know why, it is because Grandfather is Grandfather first and a driver second» [10; 75]
«He says that the bitch was named for his favorite singer, who was Sammy Davis, Junior.” “A Jew,” the hero said. “What?” “Sammy Davis, Junior was a Jew.”» [10;83]
«I was very flabbergasted by his appearance. This is an American? I thought. And also, This is a Jew? He was severely short» [10;68]
«When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?» (generic) [10;212]
«he was a Gypsy. He was a Jew» [10;256]
«An American in Ukraine is so flaccid to recognize» [10;41]
« …by what you wrote about how impossible it must have been for your grandmother to be a mother without a husband» [10; 156]
«You are very hungry, yes?” “I'm a vegetarian.” “I do not understand”» [10; 82]
4. Indefinite meaning with the zero article
The zero article, or, the meaningful non-use of the article, expresses absolute generalization, abstraction of the referent denoted by the noun. It renders the idea of the highest degree of generalization and abstraction.
Like a/an with singular countable nouns, the zero article signals indefiniteness with uncountable nouns: We have tea on the table guys, drink it. (conv) and plural countable nouns: We have books and we do not read them. (conv)
«I don't eat meat.” “Why not?” “I just don't.” »
«Do you eat veal?” “Oh, God. Absolutely no veal.” “What about sausage?” “No sausage either.”»
«I suggested to the hero, “because they do not have anything that is not meat.” “Don't they have potatoes or something?” he asked. “Do you have potatoes?” I asked the waitress» [10; 82].
Zero article phrases commonly express non-specific or generic reference. But there are also some special uses of the zero article with singular countable nouns, where otherwise we expect the or a/an to occur.
Meals as institutions
Are they going for dinner or something?
«After dinner at the restaurant, we drove back to the hotel» [10; 84]
Places as institutions
The accident happened in school. (conv)
«Which meant they couldn't get to synagogue, of course» [10; 31]
Predicatives with unique reference
When a predicative noun phrase names a unique role or job, either a zero article or the is used:
David Cameron appoints Cheryl Gillan as Welsh Secretary (zero article)
The government has not ruled out any options on airport expansion in south-east England, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.
Brandon Lewis, the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, is to head a new committee to oversee reconstruction <…> ( with article the) 
Lukman was re-elected OPEC president in November.
The zero article sometimes occurs in parallel constructions like X and Y or from X toY, where X and Y are identical or contrasting nouns. Examples of this kind are often fixed phrases like, eye to eye, face to face, from start to finish etc.
He wants to travel from country to country.
«From Man You Came and to Man You Shall Return…» [10; 26]
«and then one from waist to neck, and fearing he would forget this one, he tied a string from ear to tooth to scrotum to heel…» [10; 29]
«It flew from face to face, buzzing, landing on long noses, going in and out of hairy ears» [10; 30]
«Father is a fat man, and Mother is also. Father is a fat man, and Mother is also» [10; 17]
«He was the president (and treasurer and secretary and only member) of the Committee for the Good and Fine Arts…»[10; 59]
This broadly relates to communications betwee lawyer and client.
But consider following examples that use the indefinite article:
«“What?” “I had heard it might be a problem, but it wasn't a problem.”»
«…he could never provide because the bureaucrat was a man, and he was not a man»
The zero article can occur with noun phrases in block language, that is abbreviated language used in newspaper headlines, labels, lists, notices.
Police hunt man with suitcase over Jayden Parkinson `murder'
Police investigating the disappearance of teenager Jayden Parkinson are searching for a man spotted pulling a suitcase through a field in the middle of the night.  Headline uses the zero article for man and suitcase, which are then mentioned in the news story as a man and a suitcase.
Man Enters Space
President sees beauty of Yellowstone
World's largest metahpor hits ice-berg (headlines)
5. The definite article the
The definite article expresses the identification or individualization of the referent of the noun. The object that the noun denotes is taken as concrete and individual, or definite.
Anaphoric use of the
After unknown entities have been introduced, they can be treated as «knоwn» and named by the in later references. This use is clear in the following passage, where the definite article has been introduced:
A 12- year old boy got mad on his parents Friday night because they refused to let him go fishing on the Colorado River with relatives. So, while his parents were distracted during a barbecue with eight adult friends, he slipped away from his sister and three brothers, snatched the keys to a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off in one of his parent's four cars,<…..> El Cajon police sent teletype descriptions of the curly haired , 90-pound sixth-grader to law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California and the Arizona border area. The boy was found unharmed - but scared and sleepy (news)
That is what is called anaphora: the phrase with the refers back to a previously mentioned item.
Indirect anaphoric use of the
In indirect anaphora, the earlier noun is not repeated, but an associated noun is used with the:
«Not with standing that we had a deranged bitch in the car, who made a proclivity of throwing her body against the windows…» [10; 42]
«The station was not ordinary, because there were blue and yellow papers from the ceiling…» [10; 44]
We know that cars have windows, so after the car has been mentioned, the windows can be treated as known.
Use of the with synonyms
Sometimes, indirect anaphora involves the use of a differenr noun reffering to the same thing or person.
An example again is the shift from a 12-year-old boy to the curly haired, 90-pound sixth-grader.
«“Where's dog going to be?” the hero inquired I can't help it.”
“The bitch and the Jew will share the back seat. It is vast enough for both of them.”» [10; 47]
We saw his red Toyota near the house. The vehicle was shining.
We know that Toyota is a car, a vehicle though, so the vehicle is treated as known.
Cataphoric use of the
Cataphora is known as the opposite of anaphora. In this case the definite reference is established by something following later in the text, especially some modifier of the noun.
«It was invented in 1969. My friend Gregory knows a friend of the nephew [of the person who invented]”»
«I have girdled in the envelope the items you inquired, not withholding postcards of Lutsk, the census ledgers of the six villages from before the war, and the photographs that you had me keep for cautious purposes.»
In the 1st example the defining postmodifiers is an of-pharse, in the 2nd is relative clause.
Situational use of the
The often occurs because an entity is known from the situation. It can be the immediate situation in which conversation takes place, or the wider situation, the world, or even the universe.
I can see someone at the door ( conv, immediate situation)
I've been doing a lot of thinking and the thing is…I love you.
Can you take a red glass from the table?
Can you move the vase? I cant see anything.
Also, some uses of article the are idiomatic , as part of a fixed phrase: in the main, by the way, at the end, at the end of the day etc.
The problem of article determination has given rise to much controversy; there is much dispute about the status of the article itself and the status of its combination with the noun.
The category of article determination shows, or, determines the relations of the referent of the noun to the other referents of the same class. The article is a determiner, a unit which determines a noun, but unlike other determiners (the lexical means of determination: this, that, some, any, very etc.), it is so general, that it has become a grammatical means of determination in modern English.
Different usages of the definite article were described and the conclusion can be made concerning the definite article usage tendencies in Modern English:
- situational usage of article the is common only in conversation, where participants rely on the context that they share with listeners;
- anaphoric the is common in all registers (appendix 1);
- cataphoric the is heavily concentrated in non-fiction writing; it is associated with complex noun phrases.
This explains why there are many problems connected with article usage in English. Patterns mentioned above can bring the clearness to this issue, stating that they are widely used in different contexts while different circumstances.
article noun cataphoric
Тема курсової роботи: «Теоретичний та практичний аспекти вивчення артикля в сучасній англійській мові». Актуальність даної теми зумовлена полемікою проблеми вживання артиклів в англійській мові. Проблема функції артиклів- детермінації являється причиною дискуту в лінгвістичній науці, широко дискутується статус самого артикля, і статус його поєднання з іменником.
Об'єктом даної роботи є вживання артиклів (a/an, the, zero article) в англійській мові на прикладах роману Джонатана Фоєра « Everything is illuminated».
Мета роботи визначить місце артикля в лінгвістичній науці, разом з його основною функцією детермінанта іменника, спираючись на головні тенденції вживання артикля, зокрема в романі « Everything is illuminated».
Завданням виконаної курсової робити було виокремити основні тенденції в вживанні артиклів англійської мови, більшість з яких не може бути обґрунтована загальними правилами вживання артиклів.
List of references
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2. Волкова Л.М. Theoretical Grammar of English: modern approach: навчальний посібник/ Лідія Михайлівна Волкова. - К.: Освіта України, 2009.-253с.
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