Language and languages -- West Africa, Linguistic change, Mel language -- Article
As a function word, the definite article is subject to some attrition in the course of language change, usually originating in a a form with fuller phonetic substance such as a demonstrative, e.g., Greenberg 1978. This generalization holds true for the Mel languages, spoken in the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. These languages were formerly part of the southern branch of Atlantic but are now thought to constitute an independent, e.g., Segerer Forthcoming. The reconstructed form of the Mel definite article is likely *lɛ (tone uncertain). In some dialects of Bom-Kim and the Dema dialect of Sherbro its realization is still lɛ.
Childs, George Tucker (2016). The definite article in Mel. 2nd Niger-Congo Congress “Towards Proto-Niger-Congo: Comparison and Reconstruction” Center for African Linguistics, Languages and Cultures (LLACAN), CNRS, Paris. Sept 1-3.