Marking Definiteness or Specificity, not necessarily both
Definiteness and Specificity are assumed to be universal semantic categories, but they are not marked in all languages. Languages with only two articles mark either Definiteness or Specificity, not both (Ionin 2003). I apply Chomsky’s theory of Derivation by Phase (2001a, 2001b) to the analysis of the specificity marker <i>la</i> in Mauritian Creole to argue that this morpheme must surface as a “last resort” to license the null definite article in some syntactic environments. Building on Chierchia’s (1998) Nominal Mapping Parameter – according to which nouns vary with respect to the features “argumental” or “predicative” – I propose that languages whose nouns are argumental lack a definite article and mark the specific vs. non-specific contrast. Languages whose nouns are predicative require an overt definite article and mark the definite vs. indefinite contrast.