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Definite Article Asymmetries and Concept Types: Semantic and Pragmatic Uniqueness

  • Albert OrtmannEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 94)

Abstract

The goal of this paper is to explain the various asymmetries with regard to the (non-)use of definite articles in diverse languages by exploiting the distinction of semantic and pragmatic uniqueness as originally introduced by Löbner (Journal of Semantics 4: 279–326, 1985). I put forward the claim that typologically speaking, there are two kinds of such definite article splits. Both of them follow the scale of uniqueness Löbner (Journal of Semantics 28: 279–333, 2011), a concept hierarchy that is defined by the (in)variance of reference of nominal expressions. The first kind is a split such that the bottom segment of the scale is marked by the definite article, whereas the rest remains unmarked. The second kind of split is characterised by pragmatic and semantic uniqueness being morphosyntactically distinguished by different forms of the definite article, commonly a strong and a reduced form. I propose a few amendments to the scale of uniqueness so that the variation both between and within individual languages is captured in terms of spreading along the scale.

Keywords

Definite article Uniqueness Semantic definiteness Pragmatic definiteness Concept types Type shifts Germanic languages West Slavic Old Georgian 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The work reported here was carried out in the Research Unit FOR 600 “Functional concepts and frames”, sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Oral versions were presented at the University of Constance, as well as ‘Concept Types and Frames 2009’, Düsseldorf, and ‘A definiteness workshop’, Oslo. I would like to thank the audiences of these occasions, in particular Walter Breu, Chris Lucas, Kjell Johan Sæbø, Arnim von Stechow, Rebekka Studler, and Eirik Welo for their valuable feedback, as well as Winfried Boeder, Maria Cieschinger, Adrian Czardybon, Philipp Elsbrock, Jens Fleischhauer, Thomas Gamerschlag, Doris Gerland, Magdalena Kaufmann, Tinatin Kiguradze, and Sebastian Löbner for helpful discussion. Lastly, thanks are due to two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Information ScienceHeinrich Heine University DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

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