May 17, 2013
If we left out “the” in sentences such as “please pass the peas,” would their meanings remain intact? Rutgers linguistics professor Richard Epstein argues yes. Epstein says that “the” is an unnecessary English article that is foreign to most other languages, since the word is redundant.
“Many sentences would be totally understandable if you were to omit the from them, but it wouldn’t sound like English. I think what’s more interesting is that if the isn’t used, people start to think you sound like a caveman, but the truth is, most languages don’t have such words.”
In Epstein’s research, he finds that the three-letter word has roots in Old English. He says that “the” can be linked to the word “that,” which first appeared in Beowulf, written between 700 and 1000 A.D. A tale as old as (the) times.