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Re: Greenberg's universals

From:DOUGLAS KOLLER <laokou@...>
Date:Friday, September 15, 2000, 5:35
From: "Tim Smith"

> This brings up a point that I've wondered about for some time. Are there > any natlangs that have indefinite articles but no definite ones? In other > words, where an unmarked NP is interpreted as definite, and has to be > marked in some way to make it indefinite? I've never heard of this, but > intuitively it seems to make sense, since indefinite NPs are generally
> that are being introduced into the discourse for the first time, so you'd > think that they might require some device to call attention to them.
Géarthnuns is not a natlang, of course, and I'm bending your question a little bit but.... All nouns save proper nouns in Géarthnuns must be marked with some sort of article. I think what happened (in real time) was that general class statements like, "Les lions sont mammifères." got expanded so that any old general article-less noun in English (or other lang) took on the definite article to modify it. As a result, even the most generic statements took on the definite article, so I think it (the def. art.) has a little less force than its IE/Euro counterparts. Indefinite articles, on the other hand, in my mind, seem almost to have *more* emphasis because they emphasize *a* book or *some* books as opposed to any ol' book, or "books". The indefinite article is also indistinguishable from the French partitive "de" construction, so "se deths" could mean "a beer", "une bière" (as in "Gimme a beer" where the measure is understood [could be a glass, a bottle, depending on context]) or "some beer", "de la bière"; "söi pitsalats" could be "a pizza" or "some pizza". It's a weird, kind of counter-intuitive development of the language which I have been grappling with, but Géarthnuns is what it is...who am I to intervene? :) Kou