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Title: Two Types of Definites in Natural Language
Written By: Florian Schwarz

This thesis is concerned with two semantically different types of definite
articles in German. While the existence of distinct article paradigms in
various Germanic dialects and other languages has been acknowledged in the
descriptive literature for quite some time, its theoretical implications
have not been explored extensively. I argue that each of the articles
corresponds to one of the two predominant theoretical approaches to
analyzing definite descriptions: the 'weak' article encodes uniqueness. The
'strong' article is anaphoric in nature. In the course of spelling out
detailed analyses for the two articles, more general issues relevant to
current semantic theory are addressed, in particular with respect to the
analysis of donkey sentences and domain restriction.

Chapter 2 describes the contrast between the weak and the strong article in
light of the descriptive literature and characterizes their uses in terms
of Hawkins (1978) classification. Special attention is paid to two types of
bridging uses, which shed further light on the contrast and play an
important in the analysis developed in the following chapters.

Chapter 3 introduces a situation semantics and argues for a specific
version thereof. I propose that situation arguments in noun phrases are
represented syntactically as situation pronouns at the level of the DP
(rather than within the NP). I then argue that domain restriction (crucial
for uniqueness analyses) can best be captured in a situation semantics, as
this is both more economical and empirically more adequate than an analysis
in terms of contextually supplied `C'-variables.

Chapter 4 provides a uniqueness analysis of weak-article definites. The
interpretation of a weak-article definite crucially depends on the
interpretation of its situation pronoun, which can stand for the topic
situation or a contextually supplied situation, or be quantificationally
bound. I make a proposal for how topic situations can be derived from
questions and relate this to a more general perspective on discourse
structure based on Questions Under Discussion (QUD) (Roberts 1996, B├╝ring
2003). I also show that it requires a presuppositional view of definites. A
detailed, situation-semantic analysis of covarying interpretations of
weak-article definites in donkey sentences is spelled out as well, which
provides some new insights with regards to transparent interpretations of
the restrictors of donkey sentences.

Chapter 5 deals with so-called larger situation uses (Hawkins 1978), which
call for a special way of determining the situation in which the definite
is interpreted. I argue that a situation semantic version of an
independently motivated type-shifter for relational nouns (shifting
relations to properties) brings about the desired effect. This type-shifter
also applies to cases of part-whole bridging and provides a deeper
understanding thereof. Another mechanism, namely that of Matching
functions, gives rise to similar effects, but depends heavily on contextual
support and cannot account for the general availability of larger situation

The anaphoric nature of the strong article is described and analyzed in
detail in chapter 6. In addition to discourse anaphoric uses, I discuss
covarying interpretations and relational anaphora (bridging with the strong
article). Cases where uniqueness does not hold (e.g., in bishop sentences)
provide crucial evidence for the need to encode the anaphoric link between
strong-article definites and their antecedents formally. The resulting
dynamic analysis of strong-article definites does this via a separate
anaphoric index in the DP.

Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Graduate Linguistic Students' Association, Umass
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Subject Language(s): German
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1449571514
ISBN-13: 9781449571511
Pages: 234
Prices: U.S. $ 18.99