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I'm a young scholar in Germany, who is non-native speaker. I dare to say that I'm fluent in German. I'm currently working on my thesis and came across such cases of article usage, where one cannot say why the definite or Nullartikel is unsed. I've asked many of my colleagues, but none of them could give me an explanation, but 'isso'.

So it touches upon such termini as "Montage", "Film", "Zeit" usw. In different sources I see scholars using these words with or without an article when talking about a general notion (Film in general, not a specific ohne, Zeit as a category, not length an so on).

Here are some examples:

  • Eine der größten Leistungen der technischen Entwicklung im Film
    Eine der größten Leistungen technischer Entwicklung in Film

  • (Die) Zeit wird damit durch (die) Bewegung definiert.

I've noticed that I stumble upon those while writing, because I don't know whether to use an article or not. It is quite frustrating because I cannot find any grammatical or logical rule to explain this to me.

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    Your first example uses an article (im = in dem, the second line is wrong) - I edited it to better reflect your issue. However feel free to chose another example if you disagree with my edit. – Takkat Sep 4 '18 at 9:46
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    In my attempt to finding an answer I noticed that I would need more examples of such cases of doubt of yours. The first sentence for testing that came up in my mind was "Milch sollte man im Kühlen aufbewahren", but this does not work well, as here there is indeed a rule: Milch always without article, unless you speak about a concrete (and already established as part of the conversation) bottle of milk. This however is not applicable for your example sentences. So, could you add more examples, please? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 4 '18 at 10:35
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    @ChristianGeiselmann Milch sollte man in Kühen aufbewahren! – tofro Sep 4 '18 at 10:42
  • @tofro Die Frage ist: wie lange? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 4 '18 at 10:50
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    Please don't use comments to clarify, edit your question instead. Comments may or may not be shown initially. They do appear in order of votes. Make it easy to help you by putting everything in one place --- the question. – Robert Sep 5 '18 at 18:28
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Eine der größten Leistungen der technischen Entwicklung im Film …

To me, this means the greatest efforts are made by technical development, because the definite genitive article is a pointing finger to the cause. This can't be what the snippet wants to say. I would mark this as wrong for missing clarity.

Eine der größten Leistungen technischer Entwicklung im Film …

In contrary, leaving out the definite article makes technischer Entwicklung a mere supplement to größten Leistungen. That's what is meant here.

BUT, it's much more German to avoid those genitive supplements at all:

Eine der größten technischen Entwicklungsleistungen im Film …

You may even see -leistungen as an unnecessary filler.

Eine der größten technischen Entwicklungen im Film …

Oh, and great is of course for loudmouthes only:

Eine der bedeutendsten technischen Entwicklungen im Film …

  • Special applaus for the stylistic remark about "größte" here. Completely agreed. I did not notice this, because I am obviously already too compromised by English/US-American ubiquity. - As for the differentiation of between "größte Leistungen (der) technische(r)(n) Entwicklungen im Film": for me, the differentiation you make is unintelligible. Although formal-linguistically you can perhaps differentiate between "Leistungen (technischer Entwicklung im Film)" and "(Leistungen technischer Entwicklung) im Film", there is no real-world difference related to the two syntactical variants. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 4 '18 at 13:45
  • This is a great explanation! Thank you! Glück im Unglück: the sentences were edited wrong, which led to this wonderful case-study. The word in question is "Film", which is used with the article as well as without it – user34255 Sep 4 '18 at 16:11
  • @Christian Geiselmann: It's all about the pointing finger a definite article creates. It makes the supplement variant very unlikely. No one points to a mere supplement. But that's the variant which is meant. – Janka Sep 4 '18 at 17:00
  • What about ... filmtechnischen Entwicklungsleistungen? Klingt bloß etwas nach Fotografie ;) – Philipp Nov 4 '18 at 18:08
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I would suppose there is just no actual "rule" for this, and there is no correct or wrong. It is up to your taste and preference if you say "Eine der größten Leistungen der technischen Entwicklung im Film" or "Eine der größten Leistungen technischer Entwicklung im Film".

An indicator that this hypothesis might be true is that you did not find anybody amongst your (presumably well-educated and fluent in German) colleagues.

One criterion that may lead you when deciding to use or not use an article with such generic notions is, however, rhythm. How does the sentence fit better into its context rhythm-wise?

  • This is unfortunately not the case of Entwicklung, I'm more or less certain about it. It is the word Film in question. Sorry, the sentences were edited wrong – user34255 Sep 4 '18 at 16:09

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