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Discourse Properties of Bare Noun Objects

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Chapter Summary

In this paper we investigate discourse transparency of ‘pseudo-incorporated’ nominals in Persian, that is, the possibility of being taken up by anaphoric expressions in subsequent discourse. Persian Incorporated Nominals (INs) at first sight seem to belong to the class of discourse opaque languages such as Hindi and Hungarian. However under certain circumstances Persian bare nouns show discourse transparency. Similarly in Hungarian, Farkas and de Swart (2003) have shown singular incorporated nouns, despite being discourse opaque at first sight, may be referred back to, even though not by overt pronouns, but by expressions that arguably show covert anaphoric reference. Farkas & de Swart explain the problem of anaphoric reference to an incorporated antecedent by assuming that they do not introduce any discourse referent at all. Rather, if there is an anaphoric device that should be related to the bare noun, a suitable referent has to be created from the argument position of the verb of the antecedent clause. It is unclear why this can be achieved with a non-overt anaphoric device, but not with an overt pronoun. One would expect that the overt pronoun would have an easier time to force this change in the interpretation of a past clause.We propose as an alternative to the account of Farkas & de Swart that bare nouns actually do introduce a number neutral discourse referent. There are no overt anaphoric expressions that could match such number-neutral antecedents in Persian. But covert anaphora lack number features, and hence can serve as means to pick up a number-neutral discourse referent. Also, in case world knowledge tells us that the number-neutral discourse referent is anchored to an atomic entity or to a collection, then an overt singular pronoun or an overt plural pronoun might fit the combined linguistic and conceptual requirements, and may be used to pick up the number-neutral discourse referent. This proposal is phrased within Discourse Representation Theory. This paper presents various kinds of cases in which anaphoric reference is possible—the “translucent” cases—in the light of the theory proposed.



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