I asked this question stating whether we should use the definite article before the noun "manipulation" in the phrase "manipulation of formal symbols" or not, and I was told that using the definite article is optional but justified.
In this post I will not repeat that question. However, the provided argument for justification of using the definite article in that example led to some controversial general point, which needs a separate thread to inspect it further.
It was explained that using the definite article in that example is justified because the noun phrase "formal symbols" specifies the kind of the noun "manipulation", so it is now specified and needs a definite article.
However, I argued that if the explanation is right, then one can always use the definite article before the first noun in the "of-phrase" [noun] + of + [noun] because one can argue that the second noun specifies the kind of the first noun.
But, in my opinion, whether we should use the definite article in such a phrase or not is independent of the fact that the nouns lie within an of-phrase; if the first noun is specified, then we need the definite article. So, in my opinion, we should not use the definite article before the noun "manipulation" because it is an abstract noun meaning the act of manipulating and does not refer to any specific manipulation.
Clarifying what I mean, let us consider the following example phrases:
- kitchens of houses
- the kitchens of houses.
In my opinion, the above phrases do not mean the same. If we assume that any house has just one kitchen, then we should say "the kitchens of houses." However, if we assume that a house can have many kitchens, then we should say "kitchens of houses" because "kitchens" in this case are not specified.
I wonder whether I am right in using the definite article in such phrases or not.