Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) June 5, 2018

Definiteness agreement and the pragmatics of reference in the Maltese NP

Albert Gatt

Abstract

Maltese noun phrases exhibit ‘definiteness agreement’ between head noun and modifier. However, the status of this phenomenon as a case of true morphosyntactic agreement has been disputed, given its apparent optionality. The present paper presents a corpus-based study of the distribution of adjectives with and without definite marking, and then tests the pragmatic licensing claim through a production study. Speakers were found to be more likely to use definite adjectives in referential noun phrases when the adjectives had a specifically contrastive function. This result is discussed in the context of both theoretical and psycholinguistic work on the pragmatics of referentiality.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Manfred Krug and Christopher Lucas for discussion and insights at the Bamberg workshop and after. Comments by Christopher Lucas and Ray Fabri on earlier drafts contributed towards fleshing out many of the ideas presented here. The author gratefully acknowledges the constructive comments of an anonymous reviewer.

Abbreviations

def

definite

freq

frequency

fsg

feminine singular

msg

masculine singular

neg

negation

NP

noun phrase

prop

proportion

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Published Online: 2018-6-5
Published in Print: 2018-6-26

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