Definiteness and the Processing of Noun Phrases in Natural Discourse

Journal of Semantics 7 (4):395-433 (1990)
Definiteness is commonly seen as the watershed between those noun phrases (NPs) that introduce new referents and those that refer to referents already familiar. Furthermore, for definite NPs, the anaphoric use is taken to be the paradigm case, while other, so-called first-mention uses are regarded as secondary. The aim of the present paper is to challenge this view, and to argue for a more complex picture of the role of definiteness in the processing of NPs. The paper consists of two parts. The first part presents a corpus-based study of the co-referential properties of definite and indefinite NPs in natural, unrestricted texts. The data bring into light several issues with regard to co-referentiality in unrestricted discourse and the possible referential functions of indefinite and definite NPs. Particular attention is drawn to the fact that the most common function of definite NPs is not anaphoric but different types of first-mention uses. This is the point of departure for the second part of the paper, in which three different approaches to first-mention definities are discussed, and some preliminaries to an alternative model of the processing of first-mention definite NPs are presented
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DOI 10.1093/jos/7.4.395
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S. Lobner (2011). Concept Types and Determination. Journal of Semantics 28 (3):279-333.

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