Grammatical encoding of referentiality in the history of Hungarian

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The paper demonstrates that the Old Hungarian article, although homophonous with the distal demonstrative it developed from, is a fully grammaticalized element encoding definiteness on a syntactic level. Questioning its status as a true article is the consequence of the fact that it had a more restricted use in the first records than it does in the subsequent language stages. The careful classification of the articleless noun phrases with a definite interpretation in a selected closed corpus reveals that the Old Hungarian article only appears when there is no other device to identify the referent of the nominal expression, thus it is absent with proper names, generics, nouns modified by a demonstrative, head nouns of possessive constructions, and, occasionally, with non-argument adjuncts. Spreading of the article in certain cntexts can be observed only at the end the period and in Middle Hungarian, in line with the gradual functional extension of the nominal left periphery.


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