I'm puzzling over a difference in sense between two expressions as I've seen them in titles of texts. Here they are with examples:
A Brief History. Brief modifies history, which here seems to refer to the genre of text being written - history as overview or as a narrative focused on progression over time. It is a brief history, the indefinite article denoting that other histories may be written, but this is one of them. Time is not brief; the history is brief relative to the thing being written about. (For time, "brief" is a whole book! For the internet, that's a few paragraphs.)
The Brief History. Brief modifies history, which here seems to refer to the actual span of time or series of events in question: "Americanitis," Volumetric Filmmaking, and the city of the Dead are all brief phenomena. The focuses on this concept: there is only one definite history of this concept, and the title specifies that it tells this history.
What creates this difference feels subtle in a way that goes beyond conventional article guides. The article is definitely involved in creating a difference, but I have trouble generalizing to other examples. So I have two related questions:
A. What explains this? Is it:
- History referring to both a kind of text and a kind of narrative?
- Brief, as an adjective, highlighting how a quality of history might be understood differently?
- A or the, as articles, signalling whether history is more likely to be indefinite or definite?
- Attributable more to context (title convention), idiomatic patterns, or other things?
B: Are there examples of this principle working with other article+adjective+noun combinations, or is it distinct to this?