Articulated Definiteness without Articles


While it lacks a definite article, Mandarin makes a principled distinction between unique and anaphoric definites: unique definites are realized with a bare noun, and anaphoric definites are realized with a demonstrative, except in subject position. The following proposals account for these facts: (a) bare nouns achieve definite interpretations via a last-resort type-shifting operator ι, which has a unique definite meaning; (b) demonstratives can occur as anaphoric definites because they have a semantic argument beyond their nominal restriction that can be filled by an index; and (c) bare nominal subjects are topics. A principle called Index! requires that indexical expressions be used whenever possible. Mandarin is contrasted with Cantonese, which, like English, is shown to have access to an ambiguous definite article.

Publication date: 
July 3, 2018
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Peter Jenks, "Articulated Definiteness without Articles", Linguistic Inquiry 49 (2018) 501-536