home edit page issue tracker

This page pertains to UD version 2.

DET: determiner


The DET tag is used for the articles ein “a”, der “the”, and for pronominal words that can pre-modify nouns (regardless whether they actually do so in the given sentence) and can express agreement in Gender, Number and Case. The traditional grammar would label these words as pronouns. In UD, we reserve the PRON category for pronouns that are always used substantively (as opposed to attributively).

Since the borderline between determiners (DET) and pronouns (PRON) is determined by the lexicon and not by the sentence context, some determiners may occur in positions that are traditionally not associated with determiners in English: they can constitute a nominal (without accompanying a noun) and act as core arguments in a clause. This is not a problem, as the syntactic information is encoded in the dependency relations.

So the negative determiner kein “no” acts attributively (i.e., as a syntactic determiner) in the following example and is attached to the modified noun via the det relation.

Der Inhaber würdigt dem Kunden keines/DET Blickes/NOUN . \n The owner pays the customer no.Masc.Sing.Gen attention.Masc.Sing.Gen .
det(Blickes, keines)
det(attention.Masc.Sing.Gen, no.Masc.Sing.Gen)

However, in the next example, keiner is directly the nominal occupying the subject position; it is still tagged DET but it is attached via the nsubj relation. We note that the same annotation would also result from positing a noun phrase kein Mensch “no man”, in which the noun Mensch has been elided.

Keiner/DET interessierte/VERB sich für das auffällig ratlose Verhalten der Kunden . \n Nobody.Masc.Sing.Nom was-interested REFL in the conspicuously helpless behavior of-the customers .
nsubj(interessierte, Keiner)
nsubj(was-interested, Nobody.Masc.Sing.Nom)

Finally, in the third example, the accusative keine is the head of the direct object nominal and it has its own nominal dependent von beiden Frauen “of the two women”.

Er sagt , dass er keine/DET von/ADP beiden/DET Frauen/NOUN heiraten/VERB wolle . \n He says , that he none.Fem.Sing.Acc of the-two women marry wants .
obj(heiraten, keine)
obj(marry, none.Fem.Sing.Acc)
nmod(keine, Frauen)
nmod(none.Fem.Sing.Acc, women)
case(Frauen, von)
case(women, of)
det(Frauen, beiden)
det(women, the-two)


As a predeterminer before the definite article, all occurs without the inflectional suffix, but it is still kept as a form of the lexeme alle: In all den Jahren waren wir mit den Ergebnissen sehr zufrieden. “Over the years we have been very happy with the results.” Nevertheless, the inflected forms are also not excluded: Alle diese Linien verkehrten zum Bahnhof. “All of these lines went to the station.”

Uninflected Determiners

Some words do not inflect in the manner described above but they still occur mostly in determiner position, i.e., they replace the article. They are tagged DET, too.


Determiners vs. Pronouns

What has been said above about kein would apply to most of the other determiners, including the indefinite article ein. However, there is the question of the subclass normally encoded by the PronType feature: as an article, ein would be PronType=Art, as a self-standing pronoun it would get PronType=Ind (note that kein receives PronType=Neg in both contexts). To be consistent, we treat the PronType subclass as lexical (i.e. not changing with context) and always keep ein in the same subclass: PronType=Art. It thus receives a treatment analogous to the treatment of kein, mein, dein.

The situation is even more complicated with the definite article der. A homonymous word functions as a relative pronoun. Not only do we want to use PronType=Rel to recognize relative pronouns; some of the forms in the paradigm are actually not homonymous (the paradigm of the relative pronoun includes the forms dessen, deren, denen, which cannot be used as definite articles). Therefore, der as a relative pronoun is considered a separate lexeme and its UPOS tag is PRON.

Determiners vs. Numerals

The word ein can be either translated as the indefinite article “a” or as the numeral “one”. It is always tagged DET and not NUM, i.e., we do not attempt to distinguish contexts in which the emphasis is on quantity and not on indefiniteness. (The quantity is present in any case, as the indefinite article is never used in plural.) However, note that the word form eins “one” is treated as an independent lemma in the NUM category. It is the self-standing numeral that does not accompany a counted noun (e.g. it can be the answer to the question “What is the number of the bus line?”) and it is different from all forms of the determiner ein.

The word beide “both” is also semantically a numeral, but unlike other cardinal numerals in German (including zwei “two”) it has the adjective-like declension paradigm and fits in the here-defined class of determiners. It has the total subclass (PronType=Tot), as it refers to all members of a previously mentioned two-member set. However, it also receives NumType=Card to mark the numeric component of its meaning.

Determiners vs. Adjectives

Since we defined determiners as sharing properties of pronouns and adjectives, there is naturally also the question of the borderline between determiners and adjectives; “being pronominal” is a vague term especially when it comes to indefinite pronouns.

TBD: Is anderer “other” a determiner, or an adjective? In the meaning of “not this one”, it is more like an indefinite determiner (but it still needs to be accompanied by an article). In the meaning of “not the same, not like this one”, it is closer to an adjective. Traditional grammar does not seem to include it under pronouns/determiners.

When used attributively, a German determiner usually does not occur together with another determiner in the same nominal, although this is not a hard constraint. In contrast, an attributively used adjective is often accompanied by a determiner (but this is not a requirement either).

Indefinite Quantifiers

The quantifiers viel “much/many”, mehr “more”, wenig “little/few”, weniger “less/fewer” are tagged DET, although their behavior partially differs from that of the other determiners. But it differs from other word classes, too. They are not tagged NUM, as this category is reserved for definite cardinal numerals. In addition to the DET UPOS tag, they have PronType=Ind.

With countable nouns, the quantifier takes a suffix that signals agreement in gender, number and case: Religion ist die Erbin vieler Namen. “Religion is the heir to many.Plur.Masc.Gen names.” Wir sind seit vielen Jahren Mandanten der Rechtsanwälte Ruland. “We have been clients of Lawyers Ruland for many.Plur.Neut.Dat years.” Es gibt viele Banken. “There are many.Plur.Fem.Acc banks.” These occur normally in plural, but there are singular instances too, for example the fixed expression Vielen Dank! “Many thanks!” (lit. Many.Sing.Masc.Acc thank!)

With mass nouns the quantifier occurs without the agreement suffix. This is similar to the short (adverbial, predicative) form of adjectives: Man kann dort viel Geld lassen. “You can leave a lot of money.Sing.Neut.Acc there.” Mass nouns have only the singular form. Depending on their syntactic position, they can still distinguish Case. If they were accompanied by another determiner, such as the definite article, the case (and gender) would be reflected by the form of that determiner; but the quantifiers viel, mehr, wenig, weniger do not inflect in such context.

Finally, the uninflected form can be also used adverbially to denote the degree of a property or predication: Jede Jugendherberge ist sehr viel besser und günstiger als dieses “Hotel”. “Any youth hostel is much better and cheaper than this “hotel”.” Parkplätze gibt es in unmittelbarer Nähe ausreichend viel. “There are plenty of parking spaces in the immediate vicinity.” They are tagged ADV at present but this may be revised in the future.

To Be Decided

DET in other languages: [bej] [bg] [bm] [cs] [cy] [da] [de] [el] [en] [es] [ess] [et] [fi] [fro] [fr] [ga] [grc] [hu] [hy] [it] [ja] [kk] [kpv] [ky] [myv] [no] [pcm] [pt] [qpm] [ru] [sla] [sl] [sv] [tr] [tt] [uk] [u] [urj] [xcl] [yue] [zh]