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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Unexpected (In)definiteness: Plural generic expressions in Romance Add Dissertation
Author: Heather Robinson Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Rutgers University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics;
Subject Language(s): English
Language Family(ies): Romance
Director(s): Veneeta Dayal

Abstract: Definite descriptions in Romance are well-known to be the preferred form taken by generic arguments in those languages. Less well-known is the fact that Romance definites also differ from English ones in that they are much more restricted in their availability as deictic DPs. In this dissertation, I propose an account for definite descriptions in Romance which captures both of these facts. I also explore the consequences of the restricted availability of bare plurals in these languages. I show that by appealing to the maximality presuppositions of the lexical definite determiner, and the ways that those presuppositions may be satisfied, we can account for the distribution of the definite in Romance, and for the limitations on this distribution. In particular, looking at languages such as the Romance ones allows us to make more fine-grained observations about both the nature of generic quantification in various types of sentences, and about the role that maximality plays in the interpretation of generic arguments across languages. These observations cannot be made when we only consider a language such as English, where bare plurals occur in all generic contexts.

The discussion in this dissertation focuses on French, before moving on to a discussion of the consequences of the proposal for other Romance languages. The account developed gives a typology of generic determiners in French and Italian, and leads to greater understanding of the interactions between definite and other descriptions in generic and episodic contexts alike.