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From lack of sleep

Since we're talking about a specific lack, namely lack of sleep, it seems that the article the should be there. That is,

From the lack of sleep.

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Compare:

I had been refreshing EL&U for 48 hours straight. I think that the lack of sleep was the cause of those hallucinations.

Hallucinations are a common symptom of lack of sleep.

The first one regards a specific lack of sleep (definite article), while the second one regards lack of sleep in general (no article).

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I find it perfectly natural-sounding and grammatical to flip the presence of the in your examples. (Not that yours are wrong, just that I don't find them convincing support for your answer.) –  John Y Jun 29 '11 at 20:18
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Thinking about it, I believe that the answer is that "lack of" is treated as a quantifier, like "lots of", "too much", or "three hours'". (This is from introspection, and I have no references for the analysis)

What is confusing is that "lack" may also function as a noun taking a complement "of sleep", so in that construction it can take an article "from a lack of sleep". (It would not take "the" because contra Anderson Silva, it is not specific: "of sleep" distinguishes it from other kinds of lack, but not from other individual lacks, I think).

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Excellent, the quantifier explanation makes sense. Same thing would work with "tons of" or "loads of", though interestingly the same doesn't seem to apply to "deficit of". –  Matthew Frederick Jun 30 '11 at 17:02
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Agree with both these answers, but you seem to be at cross-purposes. 'Lack of' may refer to a specific shortage (taking 'the'), or to a more general lack (with 'a' or no article). So may other qualifiers or quantifiers.

What made me type "hte" was probably the lack of sleep (but may have been the four beers I had before logging on)

What affects my typing most is a lack of sleep (though a keyboard I'm not used to doesn't help).

I usually blame my bad typing on lack of sleep (though my friends say it's incompetence).

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