LINGUIST List 13.719

Sat Mar 16 2002

Qs: Referential Determiners, Mixed Constructions

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  1. Tania R Ionin, specificity / referentiality crosslinguistically
  2. Bob Yates, Mixed constructions

Message 1: specificity / referentiality crosslinguistically

Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 23:31:07 -0500 (EST)
From: Tania R Ionin <tioninMIT.EDU>
Subject: specificity / referentiality crosslinguistically

I'm interested in how specificity / referentiality / definiteness are
reflected in different languages - e.g., in their determiner paradigms,
word order, etc. I'm working on the acquisition of articles in L2-English,
and am interested in whether the distinctions that L2-learners make in
article usage are found in any natural language. I would greatly
appreciate any information about article systems of languages that haven't
been widely studied. I'm also interested in any other ways besides
articles that various languages use to distinguish definiteness /
specificity. I'm especially interested in whether any language draws a
morphological distinction between referential DPs (that assume background
speaker knowledge about the referent) and non-referential DPs.

Any references are greatly appreciated!

Tania Ionin
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Message 2: Mixed constructions

Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 08:46:48 -0600
From: Bob Yates <>
Subject: Mixed constructions

Most first year college students in the US are required to take a
writing course. Many of these courses require the student to buy a
book which identifies the properties of standard written academic
English. There are often exercises for the students to learn how to
correct their writing. One of the categories of errors in a
collection of these books I have consulted is the "mixed
construction." Here is a typical definition of a "mixed

 A mixed construction contains parts that do not sensibly fit
together. The mismatch may be a matter of grammar or of logic. (The
Bedford Handbook, 5th Edition. (1998))

This handbook provides the following example.

 For most drivers who have a blood alcohol content of .05 percent double
their risk of causing an accident.

I have three questions.

1) What is the origin of the term "mixed construction"? (It is not
indexed in Mina Shaughnessy's (1977) Errors and Expectations.)

2) Is the term "mixed construction" used in grammar handbooks for
other non-US varieties of English?

3) In the grammar handbooks for native speakers of other languages, is
an equivalent structure identified? (I am especially interested in
references to German, French, and Spanish.)

Please respond to me and I will summarize the answers.

Bob Yates,
Central Missouri State University
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