The Article vs. the Artists: The Demise of the Definite Article in the Names of Popular Music Groups
The paper documents and discusses a change in the English language that has not been
described yet. The change involves definite article usage in the names of popular music groups and is shown to have started in the 1960s. The description of the change is based on data drawn from the list of hit singles that has been published in the UK every week since 1952. Since the list identifies not only the most popular singles in a given week but also the groups that perform them, from the point of view of linguistics the chart is a large random database of names of popular music groups that can be used for tracking and quantifying changes in the English language. Relying on such data, the paper documents the origins and spread of the change, identifies its key stages and shows that the rate of its progress closely approximates the S curve known to model the spread of linguistic innovations. Relying on recent accounts of article use with English proper names, the paper also discusses factors that may have triggered the change and frames it in a broader perspective of trends in article use.