Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Dr. Krassimira Charkova

Second Advisor

Dr. Karen Baertsch

Third Advisor

Dr. Laura Halliday


This study aimed to investigate the acquisition of the four non-generic uses of the English definite article the by Arabic learners of English in Saudi Arabia. These non-generic uses included textual, situational, cultural and structural. This study had three goals: (1) to determine whether these uses are acquired in a certain sequence; (2) to explore which one of these uses is the most difficult and the easiest in learning; (3) to investigate whether one or two of the uses are overused.

The instrument consisted of 59 sentences adopted from Liu and Gleason (2002). There were 40 instances for required uses and 20 sentences for obligatory nonuse (5 instances for each use). The subjects were instructed to insert the where they deemed it necessary. The participants were 45 male undergraduate English major students, whose ages ranged from 18 to 22 with a Mean age of 21.6, from a university in Saudi Arabia. They were divided into three groups (15 students each) based on their proficiency levels as follows; low intermediate, intermediate, and advanced. The results revealed developmental trends in the acquisition of the non-generic uses of the English definite article related to proficiency. Specifically, the advanced group showed significantly higher accuracy of use in all four functions. Regarding the four functions, the order of acquisition, based on level of accuracy was as follows: situational, cultural, structural and textual. The study results are discussed in view of their pedagogical implications for the teaching of the definite article to Saudi learners of English.




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