America's top general, is this a specific one or one of top generals?

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America's top general has signalled US troops could engage Islamic State militants on the battlefield, in spite of president Barack Obama's repeated assurance they will not. (Aussie ABC)

From the auxiliary, has, I can tell that ‘an American general’ must have told that, as in this sentence of VOA: “Today, a top general in the interior ministry (Ibrahim Khamas) was killed in a drive-by shooting.” And wondering why do they not use ‘an’ in the sentence, I got this idea: maybe determiner ‘a/an’ could be dropped when the NP explicitly denote that it is any single person.
But after I found out that ‘top general’ may be the top single one general who presides the general staffs, I got perplexed. Why isn’t there ‘an’ in the example?

Listenever

Posted 2014-09-16T23:29:03.257

Reputation: 25 811

possible duplicate of When can an article be omitted?

– Scott – 2014-09-16T23:55:53.247

1Just to be clear, no article was omitted from this phrase. There is no ellipsis here. – snailplane – 2014-09-17T02:13:33.640

Answers

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America's is a genitive noun phrase in determiner position. Genitive NPs in determiner position are definite. The determiner slot is full and adding an would be ungrammatical.

In this context, there is only one top general. As I explained above, *an America's top general would be ungrammatical, so to express that this is only one of several top generals, you would have to write one of America's top generals.

snailplane

Posted 2014-09-16T23:29:03.257

Reputation: 30 097