Refining Cross-linguistic Dimensions of Definiteness: Variations on the French Lexifier Creole ‘la’

Viviane Deprez (Rutgers)
Event time: 
Monday, November 14, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Rosenfeld Hall See map
109 Grove Street
New Haven, CT 06511
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While familiarity (Heim 91) and uniqueness based (Russel 05) accounts of definiteness have long been opposed, Schwarz (09) argued that both dimensions are needed as they can lexicalize two competing forms of definite articles in some languages. As described in typological works, strong vs. weak definites differ both in their phonological (in)dependence and in their uses. Whereas strong definites, which keep their phonological integrity, are used when referent identification relies on the immediate specific context of utterance (pragmatic definiteness), weak definites, which tend to en-cliticize, are used when referent indentification succeeds context independently (semantic definiteness). Schwarz(09) proposes a formal semantic analysis of this contrast that emphasizes the dimension of familiarity/anaphoricity for strong definites, (cast in terms of an anaphoricity index in a DP internal situation variable), and that of uniqueness for weak ones. The question remains whether these contrasting dimensions, at work with competing definites within a language, are also useful cross-linguistically and, more generally, could serve as a basis to carve out the typological space of definiteness variation. This papers aims at contributing to this question by examining the case of the French Based Creole (FBC) determiner ‘la’, which in contrast to the Germanic double-definite case, features a single definite form spanning across several languages.

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