Several questions have come up about the definite article vs the null or zero article. I haven't been keeping track of them, but here are some examples from ELU's repository:

There was some discussion about bringing over to EL&U an answer I wrote on English Language Learners that referenced Peter Master's zero--some--a--the--null progression:

I argued at the time that it wouldn't be appropriate to migrate the question to EL&U since the question is on-topic at ELL. However, as similar questions keep popping up on EL&U, I'm now wondering whether it would be useful to copy (cross-post) the answer to EL&U. I'm no linguist, but I have found the Peter Masters progression to be well-argued and persuasive.

What do you think?

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    I'm easy either way. If you'd like to clone the question and answer to have a canonical "duplicate close target", I'd support that. So long as no one takes this as setting a precedent for cross-posting. This is a one-off, and cross-posting in general should be discouraged.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 22, 2017 at 18:17
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    I'm tempted to argue that this is off-topic on ELL anyway. Dec 23, 2017 at 9:37
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    Related discussion going on at MSO.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 24, 2017 at 14:20
  • Thanks @DanBron for both your comments. The MSO answer (there's only one there at the moment) is pretty much what I'm suggesting. I'm not sure whether my ELL answer has enough in it to be canonical for this class of questions, which is a big part of the motivation behind raising this meta question.
    – Lawrence
    Dec 24, 2017 at 14:33
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    @Lawrence Yes, that MSO question is only about an hour old at this point. But I agree he answer already there is most likely to carry the day, and largely recapitulates what you suggest here. As for canonical-ness, I liked you ELL answer and upvoted it. I’m personally skeptical about the shelf-life of the term “null article”, but I’m not a linguist by any stretch, so we’ll see. I think your answer is sufficiently detailed and supported to stand as a canonical target for duel questions. And of course it can be extended over time if need be. I have some related ideas on “canonical targets”.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 24, 2017 at 14:40
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    @Lawrence Your answer on ELL (ell.stackexchange.com/questions/104195/…) was very helpful, the clearest explanation I have yet read. It deserves a slot on EL&U, in my opinion, however that might be facilitated.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 8, 2018 at 14:11
  • Thanks @NigelJ. I'm being a bit slack; my excuse is that I'm waiting for at least a +5 on the question to claim community backing for such a cross-post. :)
    – Lawrence
    Jan 8, 2018 at 14:18
  • @JustinKrejcha Thanks for that link. It's certainly an interesting idea to have a proper cross-post mechanism that's linked to the site's search bar.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 8, 2018 at 14:25
  • @EdwinAshworth Would you mind helping me identify a suitable question to use? I adapted my answer to the 'mayor' question, only to find that I couldn't post the answer because the question had been marked as a duplicate.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 19, 2018 at 12:18
  • @Lawrence Is why-do-people-omit-the-definite-article any use? Jan 19, 2018 at 15:47
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you for looking. The title is spot on, as is the first paragraph, but I think the examples given ("dentist will see you", "I tend bar" (sic)) are poorly phrased. Unfortunately, the examples form the meat of that question.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 19, 2018 at 15:50
  • I'd see those examples as examples of idiomatic fixed phrases (we don't say 'specialist / proctologist / king / president will see you now' // 'I keep book' / 'I sweep road') that take some explaining. But I believe, contrary to some, that it is good practice here to see questions as platforms for exploring closely related concepts (which may actually help OP to get a better overall picture, and see their question more clearly in context – perhaps even allow them to phrase it more precisely). I'd go with it. Jan 19, 2018 at 15:59
  • @EdwinAshworth Ok, I'll use that as the canonical question, then. Thanks again!
    – Lawrence
    Jan 19, 2018 at 23:18
  • @EdwinAshworth Done.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 20, 2018 at 14:49


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