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Identifiability and Definiteness in Chinese by Chen Ping
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Topic:  Identifiability and Definiteness in Chinese by Chen Ping
posted itemPosted - 03/04/2004 :  10:59:16
Chen Ping

Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics

Language Information Sciences Research Centre



Chen Ping

University of Queensland

Identifiability and Definiteness in Chinese

Time: 8:00 - 9:30 pm

Date: 7th April 2004 (Wednesday)

Venue: B7603 (CTL Multi-purpose Room), City University of Hong Kong


This paper explores how the pragmatic notion of identifiability is encoded in Chinese. It presents a detailed analysis of the distinctive linguistic devices, including lexical, morphological and position in sentence, which are employed in Chinese to indicate the interpretation of referents in respect of identifiability. Of the major determiners in Chinese, demonstratives are developing uses of a definite article, and yi 'one' + classifier has developed uses of an indefinite article, although morphologically and in some cases also functionally they have not been fully grammaticalized yet. What makes Chinese further different from languages like English is the interpretation in this regard of what are called indeterminate lexical encodings, which include bare NPs and cardinality expressions. They by themselves are neutral in respect of the interpretation of identifiability. For indeterminate expressions there is a strong, but seldom absolute correlation between the interpretation of identifiability or nonidentifiability and their occurrence in different positions in sentence. Unlike the cases with several other languages without articles like Czech, Hindi and Indonesian, the features of definiteness and indefiniteness cannot be obligatorily and uniquely specified for nominal expressions in Chinese. The findings in this paper lead to the conclusion that definiteness as a grammatical category defined in the narrow sense has not been fully developed in Chinese.
Language of Presentation: English
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