Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info


New from Oxford University Press!

ad

Vowel Length From Latin to Romance

By Michele Loporcaro

This book "draws on extensive empirical data, including from lesser known varieties" and "puts forward a new account of a well-known diachronic phenomenon."


New from Cambridge University Press!

ad

Letter Writing and Language Change

Edited By Anita Auer, Daniel Schreier, and Richard J. Watts

This book "challenges the assumption that there is only one 'legitimate' and homogenous form of English or of any other language" and "supports the view of different/alternative histories of the English language and will appeal to readers who are skeptical of 'standard' language ideology."


Academic Paper


Title: Subjectivity, indefiniteness and semantic change
Author: Turo Vartiainen
Institution: University of Helsinki
Linguistic Field: Semantics
Abstract: In this article I discuss article usage in NPs with subjective and objective adjectival premodifiers. The main topic of the article is the tendency of semantically subjective adjectives to be used in indefinite NPs. This correlation is independent of the frequency of the adjective, and the uneven article distribution becomes even more skewed when an overt indicator of subjectivity, such as very or much, is introduced to the NP. I explain this tendency in terms of accessibility: subjective modifiers provide the speaker with a way of expressing a personal evaluation of the referent, and this evaluation is typically new information in discourse. Consequently, subjective premodifiers strongly favour indefinite NPs. By contrast, objective modifiers often encode information that is typical of the referent or else accessible from context or through world knowledge. Because the information expressed by the modifier is accessible, the accessibility of the discourse referent itself determines article choice, and the distribution of articles is more even. I also show that the connection between subjectivity and indefiniteness may provide the linguist with a useful tool in semantic disambiguation and diachronic research. Case studies of two polysemous -ing participles, moving and glowing, show that when used as a nominal premodifier, the subjective sense of the word (e.g. moving, ‘emotionally touching’) strongly favours indefinite NPs over definite NPs. We will also see that when a participle (outstanding) or a noun (key) develops a subjective sense and undergoes category change to adjective, the new sense is particularly often used in indefinite constructions, and the semantic change and gradual adjectivisation of the word is mirrored in the gradual increase in the use of indefinite NPs.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 17, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page