Reference assignment in pronominal argument languages

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Using data from Toposa and Kiswahili, this article demonstrates that the reference assignment in pronominal languages does not only constrain the process of identifying the intended referent, but the pronominal marking on the verb also assists with disambiguating whether a nominal expression has attributive or referential value. A nominal expression enters the discourse as underspecified regarding for referential/attributive meaning and therefore needs to be enriched through saturation. The pronominal marking on the verb triggers the process of enrichment. If the overt pronoun occurs in addition to the default incorporated pronoun on the verb, it carries the procedural marker of identificational or contrastive focus, similar to the contrastive stress in English.


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