Talossan has four types of articles — indefinite articles, definite articles, partitive articles, and the universal article. We will discuss these one at a time.
Singular Indefinite Articles (equivalent to the English “a” and “an”)
First, let’s give you the easy way out. When you want to say “a” or “an”, you can (almost) always just use the Talossan word ‘n. This word is pronounced kind of like the English word “an” would be pronounced in a quickly spoken sentence like “on an island”. Except when the article appears immediately after seven specific words (which use the form iens, discussed below), ‘n is always proper and never wrong; you can use it with any noun and it will always mean “a” or “an”.
If you want to be more formal than ‘n, there is a longer form of that indefinite article. This form is ün (for masculine nouns) and üna (for feminine nouns).
As mentioned above, a specific set of seven words, when introducing the indefinite article, cause the article to take a different grammatical case (that is, a word different from ün, üna, or their shared short form ‘n). These specific words are à (= at, to), come (= like, as), contra (= against), da (= of, from), intra (= within), ja (= there is, ago), per (= for), and the definite articles el and la. When following any of these words, the indefinite article has its historic (pre-advent of the ün) form, iens (a word that formed from the elided form of the word viens, which is now used only for the number “one”), and the article always elides and contracts with the preceding word, giving à’iens (= at a, to a), com’iens (= like a, as a), contr’iens (= against a), d’iens (= of a, from a), intr’iens (= within a), ja’iens (= there is a, a [time] ago), pr’iens (= for a), and l’iens (= the one [who, which]). This form of the article has the feminine form iensa and the shared plural form iensas.
Notice that the form of this indefinite article is now iens, although its original derivation was the word viens. Use of viens gives the phrase a numeric meaning — compare ja’iens anneu (= a year ago) to ja viens anneu (= one year ago). While the form iens is almost always seen contracted to the preceding word, it is acceptable to separate it when emphasis in speech on a specific constituent word in such a construction must be communicated: ¿zirevas’t qe votarhás CONTRA iensa traþità? (= did you say you will vote AGAINST a treaty?!).
The iens form of the indefinite article is also seen contracted to third-person singular past-tense verb forms (that is, conjugations that end with -va). For example, o xhetev’iensa bola (= he threw a ball). The survival of the use of this case for the article in only one specific verb conjugation is unique; some consider it unsupportable and now prefer o xheteva üna (or ‘n) bola (= he threw a ball), which is also proper.
Plural Indefinite Articles
What if you have a plural noun, though? You can’t say “a sandwiches” in English. Instead, what do you do? You either leave out the article altogether and let the noun go alone, implying a meaning such as “any or all” (as in “Do you eat sandwiches”), or you use a word like “some” to introduce it, indicating a particular referenced subset (as in “There are [some] sandwiches on the table”).
In these cases in Talossan, though, you use either dels (for masculine nouns) or dals (for feminine nouns). Both of these are contractions of da (= of) with the plural definite article (“the”; whose Talossan equivalents are discussed below), so that a literal reading of both dels and dals is “of the”. For example, ¿Menxhás’t dels sändwitschen (= Do you eat sandwiches) and J’ont dels sändwitschen sür la maisa (= There are [some] sandwiches on the table).
Note that both of dels and dals could be replaced by the word dallas. However, this is only done in extremely formal or poetic contexts. The word dallas, though, is seen used (in preference to dels and dals) in one specific circumstance, and that is the introduction of the year when providing a date. For example, Listopäts dallas 2009 (= October [of the year] 2009).
Emphatic Indefinite Articles
Talossan has another indefinite article, quálsevol, which is used with countable nouns and has the meaning “some unknown or unfamiliar or unimportant”. It can be considered an “emphatic indefinite” article. Note the difference between ‘n caciun txaupa (= a dog is barking) and quálsevol caciun txaupa (= some dog is barking). This is a subtle semantic difference but is also represented in the English translations. In the second case, the speaker is communicating that the specifics about the dog are most likely unknown and unimportant to him. (That is, just as in English, the sentence “a dog is barking” might be followed by a thought like “let’s go and see whose dog that is”, but the sentence “some dog is barking” would more likely be followed by a sentiment like, “and I don’t care which dog it might be”.)
This article has an irregular plural form quáisevois, used to indicate “a non-specific group” or “some but not all”. For example, quáisevois cician txaupent (= some [unknown] dogs bark/are barking). Compare this to dels caciun txuapent (= dogs bark/are barking), which is a general statement about all dogs.
Similarly, quáisevois vexhetais sint deliciais (= some [but not all] vegetables are delicious) indicates an unspecified but proper subset, and contrasts with dels vexhetais sint deliciais (= vegetables are delicious) which can be understood as saying something about the tastiness of all vegetables.
Definite Articles (equivalent to the English “the”)
If you want to introduce a noun with “the”, then in Talossan, you use el if the noun is masculine, and la if the noun is feminine. For example, la pupitra (= the desk) and el computex (= the computer).
However, if the noun (no matter what its gender might be) begins with a vowel, then you should dump el or la and just smush l’ up against the noun. For example, l’espagnhour (= the spaniel) and l’abeglha (= the bee). In other words, l’ is used for both masculine and feminine nouns, but only if they begin with a vowel.
In English, the word “the” is used for both singular and plural nouns. For example, “the spaniel”, “the spaniels”, “the bee”, “the bees”. In Talossan, however, if a noun is plural, the article (whichever is appropriate for the gender of the noun) becomes plural too, by the addition of the letter -s to it. For example, els espagnhours (= the spaniels) and las abeglhas (= the bees).
Notice that when a plural noun is involved, you cannot use the l’ trick. That is, l’espagnhours is improper for “the spaniels”; you need to spell out the entire definite article — els espagnhours.
There is also one other definite article, having a special and limited use. The word li (which can be thought of as meaning “the date of”) is used exclusively and only in the construction of dates. For example, li 10. Listopäts (= the tenth of October). Do not use li anywhere else, and do not use el or la in this circumstance.
If you think about it, there are some nouns in Talossan (and English) that just plain don’t work with an indefinite article. These are called “mass nouns” or “uncountable nouns”. For example, although you can say “the garbage” (using the definite article), it is wrong to say “a garbage” (that is, the indefinite article just doesn’t work with this word). To indicate a single piece of garbage, you have to say, well, “a piece of garbage”.
These words are not at all uncommon. When ordering at a cafeteria, you might say “I will have a milk”, but this is not a common phrasing, and what you are really saying is “I will have a glass (or carton) of milk”. When offering your wine glass for a refill, you might say “I will have a red”, what you are really saying is “I will have some (of the) red wine”.
In all of these cases, you are doing what you can to deal with uncountable nouns in English. When you encounter a situation in Talossan that is like any of those described here, you will want to use the partitive article. As we’ve seen, English typically uses no article at all (for example, “I drank milk”; grammarians actually call this the “no article” construction), so there is no direct equivalent to Talossan; however, you might think of Talossan’s “partitive article” as “some/any of the” or “some/any amount of the”, and luckily, the Talossan partitive article is pretty much just that — a direct translation of English’s “of the”.
When introducing an uncountable noun in Talossan, use del (if the noun is masculine) or dal (if it is feminine). For example, dal ispeça xhenera del garbatx (= [any amount of] shopping generates [some amount of] garbage) and vaes cätsilor alufient dal lapta (= my cats drink [some] milk).
Note that this correspondence to English “some” is not to be confused with that of the indefinite article quálsevol, discussed above, which is used for countable nouns and can also be translated as English “some”.
The Universal Article (equivalent to the English “all of the”)
Talossan has a special form for indicating every single instance of something, anywhere and everywhere. If you want to say “all of the”, then you can use the universal article toct i. For example, toct i cician (= all dogs).
Notice that the word toct, by itself, means “all”. So you can also say toct dels cician (= all of the dogs), which is nearly equivalent. But toct i is used when the intent is to include every single dog everywhere, while toct dels is preferable when indicating every single dog in a specific referenced group of dogs, but not any of the dogs, say, on the other side of the earth.
Of course, toct i is also useful for purposes of exaggeration, and in fact, one common idiom, toct i tzara (literally = all the earth, and having the meaning “everyone”) is an example of that. For instance, toct i tzara t’ament (= everyone loves you). [Spanish and English both have a similar idiom, todo el mundo and “all the world”.]