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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2018, Vol. 49, No. 3, Pages 501-536
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00280)
© 2018 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Articulated Definiteness without Articles
Article PDF (182.67 KB)
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.