Lecture How to be Definite in Slavic?
Mon, February 18, 2008 • 3:00 PM • Texas Governor's Room, Texas Union 3.116
Most Slavic languages lack definite and indefinite articles (cp. English the, a) as grammatical markers of (in)definiteness in nominal phrases. Instead, other linguistic means are utilized to express the semantic and pragmatic notion of (in)definiteness: word order, demonstratives, possessives, case distinctions, verbal aspect, and adjectives. Yet, despite these undisputed descriptive generalizations, there is still considerable disagreement among Slavic linguists as to the structure of the noun phrase. The main debate is whether Slavic noun phrases are headed by a functional category D(eterminer) as a syntactic expression of definiteness (the so-called the DP-Hypothesis) or by a N(oun), with a more traditional structure.
Based on word order, headedness tests and information structure, I propose that noun phrases in articleless Slavic languages have a simple, 'bare' structure stripped of any functional categories. This has implications for linguistic theory, since it means that the DP-hypothesis is not supported for all languages. Rather, headedness of the noun phrase depends on the existence of articles in a given language. It also has implications for second language teaching, since students must separate the concept of definiteness from the articles that express it in a language like English.