Definite descriptions of events: progressive interpretation in Ga (Kwa)

Abstract

This paper demonstrates that the progressive interpretation in Ga is an effect of the interaction between the imperfective aspect and a definite description of events. Crucially, the data from Ga point to the consequences of the view that definite descriptions of events encode the familiarity of the discourse referent and its uniqueness in bearing the property in question. Namely, they yield direct evidentiality and the necessary ongoingness of the event at the topic time. Thus, the paper identifies previously unattested variation in the semantics of the progressive in a cross-linguistic perspective and shows that not only lexical but also grammatical aspect exhibits striking parallelisms with the nominal domain.

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Correspondence to Agata Renans.

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For insightful comments and discussion, I would like to thank Joseph P. De Veaugh-Geiss, Mira Grubic, Anne Mucha, Jacopo Romoli, Radek Šimík, Judith Tonhauser, Marta Wierzba, and Malte Zimmermann as well as audiences in Belfast, York, Sinn und Bedeutung 19 and Triple A 1. The paper has also considerably benefited from the suggestions and comments of the Linguistics and Philosophy editor Craige Roberts and the anonymous reviewers, for which I am very grateful. This work was supported by the German Research Foundation DFG as part of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 632 ‘Information Structure,’ Project A5 ‘Focus realization, focus interpretation, and focus use from a cross-linguistic perspective’.

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Renans, A. Definite descriptions of events: progressive interpretation in Ga (Kwa). Linguist and Philos (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-019-09287-2

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Keywords

  • Progressive aspect
  • Definite descriptions
  • Fieldwork semantics
  • Ga language
  • Evidentiality