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Form-function mismatches in (formally) definite English noun phrases: Towards a diachronic account

Lucas, Christopher (2011) 'Form-function mismatches in (formally) definite English noun phrases: Towards a diachronic account.' In: The Noun Phrase in Romance and Germanic: Structure, Variation and Change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 159-174. (Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today)

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Abstract

This article discusses two classes of so-called ‘weak definites’, arguing that their (definite) form is misleading as to their (non-definite) semantics, and outlining a diachronic explanation for why each of these classes (observable in sentences such as Let’s go to the pub and He came to the bank of a river) should exhibit this particular form – function mismatch. For examples such as the pub the loss of an obligatorily definite interpretation is argued to be the result of a semantic reanalysis such that reference is no longer to a specific entity but to the activity conventionally associated with that entity. For examples such as the bank of a river the mismatch is argued to be a consequence of an incompatibility between the semantics of indefiniteness marking and the semantics of relational nouns, which arises when definiteness marking becomes obligatory in a language.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East
Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of Linguistics
ISBN: 9789027255549
Depositing User: Chris Lucas
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2011 09:36
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/11155

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