LINGUIST List 24.2382

Tue Jun 11 2013

Qs: Search for Article on Adjectives that Disambiguate Indefiniteness in English

Editor for this issue: Brent Miller <>

Date: 11-Jun-2013
From: John Winward <>
Subject: Search for Article on Adjectives that Disambiguate Indefiniteness in English
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I'm working on L2 acquisition of English articles by Thai L1 learners.In particular, I'm interested in the (possible) confusion betweendeterminers and adjectives.

Background: in a range of 'opaque' contexts - for example thescope of intensional verbs - English indefinites allow both a specificand non-specific reading: (1a) +Specific, (1b) -Specific.

1a. Mary wants to marry a millionaire; his name is John.
1b. Mary wants to marry a millionaire, but doesn't know any.

English has a couple of adjectives that can force a specific reading.'A certain X' is the most widely quoted example in the literature.

Thai has no article system, but there is an adjective(?) that seemsto play the opposite role - forcing an indefinite reading, even inenvironments that would normally be specific.

I remember reading a journal article a few years back in which theauthor claims - in passing - that English has an adjective of thissort. I can't for the life of me remember the article, the author or -most importantly - the adjective in question. I can think of a fewcandidates - 'An unspecified X', for example, but none of themsound natural, and none of them clearly disambiguate the specificity/ non-specificity across a wide range of tokens. I've tried using athesaurus, but to no avail.

Can anyone suggest a likely candidate, or remember the article I'mthinking of?


Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Page Updated: 11-Jun-2013