Remarks on definiteness in warlpiri

In Emmon Bach, Eloise Jelinek, Angelika Kratzer & Barbara Partee (eds.), Quantification in Natural Languages. Kluwer Academic Publishers (1995)


In this paper, we discuss some rather puzzling facts concerning the semantics of Warlpiri expressions of cardinality, i.e. the Warlpiri counterparts of English expressions like one,two, many, how many. The morphosyntactic evidence, discussed in section 1, suggests that the corresponding expressions in Warlpiri are nominal, just like the Warlpiri counterparts of prototypical nouns, eg. child. We also argue that Warlpiri has no articles or any other items of the syntactic category D(eterminer). In section 2, we describe three types of readings— "definite", "indefinite" and "predicative"—which are generally found with Warlpiri nouns, including those which correspond to English common nouns and cardinality expressions. A partial analysis of these readings is sketched i n section 3. Since Warlpiri has no determiner system, we hypothesize that the source of (in)definiteness in this language is semantic. More specifically, we suggest that Warlpiri nominals are basically interpreted as individual terms or predicates of individuals and that their three readings arise as a consequence of the interaction of their basic meanings, which are specific to Warlpiri, with certain semantic operations, such as type shifting (Rooth and Partee 1982, Partee and Rooth 1983, Partee 1986, 1987), which universally can or must apply in the process of compositional semantic interpretation.

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Author's Profile

Maria Bittner
Rutgers University, New Brunswick

References found in this work

Groups, I.Fred Landman - 1989 - Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (5):559 - 605.
Plurality and Conjunction.Jack Hoeksema - 1983 - In Alice G. B. ter Meulen (ed.), Studies in Modeltheoretic Semantics. Foris Publications. pp. 1--63.

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