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Introduction

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Chapter Summary

Determiners and definiteness have been extensively studied in formal linguistics. This introductory chapter of the book on Crosslinguistic Studies on Noun Phrase Structure and Reference discusses few key issues addressed in current research on definiteness and (in)definite articles, in order to place the contributions gathered in the book in a wider theoretical perspective. Many studies regard the occurrence of definite determiners as licensed by two semantic properties: Uniqueness (or Maximality), and Familiarity. Familiarity has been modelled as the contrast between newly introduced discourse referents and previously introduced referents. The determiners are required to turn a predicate into a referential argument. Definite noun phrases are often characterised as expressions which denote entities already introduced into the (mental) "index file" listing the discourse referents available to the speaker and hearer, and indefinite noun phrases as expressions introducing new discourse referents.

Keywords: definite articles; definite noun phrases; definiteness; determiners; familiarity; indefinite noun phrases; semantic properties

10.1163/9789004261440_002
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