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Note: This is similar to, but not a duplicate of, an old question on Linguistics SE.

Consider these two sentences:

  1. One employee accused him of serious crimes, but said employee did not provide any specifics.
  2. One employee accused him of serious crimes, but the said employee did not provide any specifics.

At least to me, (1) sounds fine, but (2) sounds, at least, quite unidiomatic. It seems that we should classify said as a determinative (or determiner, depending on your terminology), rather than as a (participial) adjective, at least in sentences like (1), where it appears with a singular count noun that lacks any other determiner. If we accept sentences like (2), we would conclude that it can be either a determinative or an adjective; if we reject sentences like (2), we would conclude that it can only be a determinative.

There was a question about this earlier on Linguistics SE where the accepted answer maintained that said is, nevertheless, an adjective in both cases, and that a noun phrase like said employee is simply a case of an NP lacking a determiner, as can occur in certain registers. But said seems to be used much more widely than other adjectives in this way, regardless of register; I think most would find (1) acceptable in any context, and a Google search for "but said person was" turns up many thousands of results.

One comment may have clarified things. Ngrams seems to suggest that said is typically used without a determiner in American English, but with a determiner in British English. Note that Ngrams tends to underestimate differences between dialects due to texts getting misclassified.

So: is this hypothesis correct? Should we say that said can be a determinative in American English, but not in British English?

Edit: Some of the commenters were saying that this is just legalese, or business-speak, or limited to formal contexts. So I present some attestations from various sources and registers:

  • From The New York Times: "More likely, however, you’re suggesting that said person is willfully ignorant"
  • From /r/AmITheAsshole: "and said coworker is now upset even though I’ve verbalized my boundaries before."
  • From a recent romance novel: "But said person was anticipating mid-to-late September, not early June."
  • From a "romantic comedy" book: "Yeah, well, said boyfriend is probably developing some trust issues of his own"
  • From Tumblr: "I made a valentine for a friend a while ago and said friend posted it on twitter"
  • From Wattpad fanfiction: "He and said partner are happy, but is this happiness nothing but a lie?"
  • From another Reddit comment: "Girl the reason he is not mad is he and said Bff hooked up and you and he are now even."
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  • 3
    Said without determiner doesn't sound unidiomatic to me (as a BrE speaker), but I can't find evidence for this view. Commented Jan 10 at 9:19
  • 2
    I think your Ngram has too few results to be statistically significant.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 10 at 16:15
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    @tchrist I think the OED is just wrong on this point. Looking it up online, it seems to be ubiquitous: you can find it in forum posts, news articles, advice columns, fiction and nonfiction books, reviews, etc. To me (1) seems correct regardless of register, and I seem to be in good company in that judgment. I wouldn't make the same claim about same, where it is certainly true that the use without a determiner is restricted to certain contexts/registers/idioms.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jan 10 at 23:10
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    And in this other act of Parliament of 1649 (An Act for discharging Poor Prisoners unable to satisfie their Creditors) [haha], said is preceded by the everywhere: the said prisoner, the said oath. british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/… Maybe by and by I shall make this an answer. Please don't jump the gun on me.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 10 at 23:14
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    I know you know the meaning but you were asking about the determiner. And I am saying that it comes from legal English, way back, and with the determiner the, historically. Afaik, "said" in not much used in texts that are 100% devoid of a legal tone. In your employee accusation example, the text is legalistic or about to become so, right? Whether or not you have "the", "said" is an adjective derived from a past participle. What else could it be?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 10 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

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Relevant discussion of said in New members of ‘closed classes’ in English (B. Reynolds and GKP) with the said district as an example. (See link to read more)

2.2.1 Said

The word said follows a slightly different trajectory. It spread from past participle to adjective to determinative only to gradually fade out of use, today persisting mostly in legal documents. Our basis for categorizing said as a determinative is that singular, countable nouns like district normally require a determiner, and adjectives cannot perform this function (e.g., *it was in good district). The adjective and the determinative are illustrated in figure 7.

According to their analysis, the said + N, said is an adjective (not a determinative) since it appears with the. But said + N, said is a determinative.

No comment on the difference between American and British dialects.

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    Thanks for turning this up--given its authorship by GKP himself, this is as close to an official answer as we're going to get, as far as H&P's classification is concerned. But I find his view that this "persists mostly in legal documents" at odds with the numerous attestations from highly informal contexts listed in my question
    – alphabet
    Commented Jan 12 at 7:36
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    Yes, as I said in my comments. Yes, mostly in legal documents or ones with a legal tone. The employee in the OP's is about to be clobbered criminally, it would seem.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 12 at 15:05
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    @Araucaria-Him I thought you would beat me to it for a better elaboration!
    – user424874
    Commented Jan 12 at 15:47
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    @Araucaria-Him Interesting! But maybe because "other" has still "limited development" (according to the paper) as a determinative that's why they stick to the adjective categorization for "said" to mean "aforementioned" mentioned by BillJ in "the said NP"? If I'm not mistaken CGEL classifies "other" as a common noun or an adjective functioning as a modifier.
    – user424874
    Commented Jan 13 at 9:53
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    @user424874 +1 Yes, I think you're right, having had a look at CGEL again. It seems I've been having an errant mental episode. My memory's been making up its own entries :-/ Commented Jan 16 at 10:34
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There is little evidence for said as an adjective as it fails the tests: no predicative uses (the person was/seemed said), no modification by adverbs (the exactly/recently said person), no gradation, and no -ly alternation with a corresponding adverb.

The only commonality it has with adjectives is that it appears in a pre-head position in noun phrases. Note that even in pre-head modifier position, it still has to precede all others: its properties are similar to determinative one, which can act as a determiner or as pre-head modifier (One reason was given / The one reason was given).

As to the British-American divide...

Out of 81 hits for said person in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, only one has determiner the before said, the others having no determiner at all; 27 of 127 in the Supreme Court corpus do.

The data in the HANSARD courpus (British Parliament) differ starkly with only two out of 118 hits lacking determiner the before said.

In the more balanced News on the Web corpus, 860 of 1111 hits have the before said. The ones without include some hits from British English sources.

We aim to share info and set up a collection to get funds to offer a reward to anyone who can help bring this person to justice, securing arrest and conviction of said person. (Daily Mail)

Generally, these data do uphold the British-American divide on the use of said, though they do not rule out either of the uses for one group or the other.

Interestingly, it's excessively rare that a determiner other than the appears before said, and it's similarly rare to find anything between the and said which seems to argue for the said as being a sort of idiom of a determiner.

In sum, seeing as it can play the part of a determiner in a noun phrase headed by a singular count noun for at least some speakers of both varieties, and lacking any strong evidence for said as an adjective, it would be best classed as a determinative on both sides of the pond.

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  • How is this any different from something like aforementioned in the aforementioned young lady?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 11 at 4:17
  • @tchrist For one thing, said is much more common without the than aforementioned is: 9 hits for of aforementioned SINGULAR NOUN vs 576 hits for of said SINGULAR NOUN in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. This makes it much easier to class as common usage and not just legal short-hand. Besides this, aforementioned can be modified by adverbs like previously, briefly. However, there may well also be a case for aforementioned as a determinative!
    – DW256
    Commented Jan 11 at 8:32
  • I don't see how the word said in "the said employee" can be a determiner/native because that would mean you have two determiners together. Now what?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 11 at 14:37
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    I take "said" to be an adjective meaning "aforementioned", The determiner "the" seems to be optional, at least it is in BrE.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 11 at 18:07
  • @Lambie Two determinatives, only one of which is acting as a determiner. Determinative would be the part of speech, and determiner the function. Not all determinatives are mutually exclusive this and many for example.
    – DW256
    Commented Jan 12 at 1:29

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