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Follow-up on Confused with articles

Could someone please explain why in the phrase

Several million visitors a year are attracted to ∅ ski slopes of the Alps.

the complement “of the Alps” sounds strange?

The explanation given in the answer is that "it would sound strange since it wouldn't be defining a set anymore". But it's still not clear to me why "of the Alps" is incorrect, but the "in the Alps" is correct. Does "of" here presupposes "everything"? Is there a rule about it?

Below I've replaced the zero article with "some". Is it also incorrect and we still need to use "in" the Alps?

Several million visitors a year are attracted to some ski slopes [but not all of them] of the Alps.

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  • First of all, I'm not totally sure what that answerer meant by "∅". I just googled it and learned about the null set in mathematics. But do they actually mean the so-called zero article, i.e. "if there were no word there"? I'm not sure. Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:27
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    It should have been "attracted to the ski slopes of the Alps". A zero-article would be wrong (or at least rather strange)
    – James K
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:41
  • The null set there from another question on this site means no "the".//attracted to ski slopes in the Alpes. I see nothing wrong in leaving out the "the".
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:56
  • @AndyBonner In Linguistics, the ∅ symbol is used to mean zero-article, exactly as it's used in the question --at least it was when I was studying it.
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 20:51

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You use a definite article when you and your listener can answer the question "Which?"

Millions of people are attracted to the ski slopes.

Which ski slopes?

The ski slopes of the Alps.

That is all of them, considered collectively. Since you can identify which ski slopes you should "the ski slopes of the Alps".

But if you say "in the Alps", this doesn't identify which ski slopes you are referring to. There are many ski slopes in the alps, and "ski slopes in the Alps" doesn't refer to them all collectively. So if you construct a sentence with "ski slopes in the Alps" you don't determine which ski slopes you are talking about. It means "some of them".

So an indefinite article is possible in that case, and with plurals the indefinite article is the zero article.

Millions of people are attracted to ski slopes in the Alps.

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  • You nailed it here. Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 14:42

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