Emergence of the indefinite article

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This study explores the grammaticalization of a frequently used numeral classifier <i>yige</i> into a marker of indefiniteness in spoken Taiwan Mandarin. Naturally-occurring data show that <i>yige</i> is frequently used to introduce a newly-mentioned but unfamiliar referent into the discourse and its distribution goes beyond the typical boundary of a numeral classifier. <i>Yige</i> may occur with NPs that do not require number or class marking, such as proper names, abstract, non-referring, and even plural nouns. It is suggested that <i>yige</i> is functionally overgeneralized and realigned with a new grammatical status in <i>marking indefinite referentiality</i>. Just like Huang (1999) argues that the distal demonstrative <i>nage</i> &#8216;that&#8217; is becoming a definite article, this paper argues that the indefinite article <i>yige</i> is also emerging in Mandarin.Emergence of the indefinite article: Discourse evidence for the grammaticalization of <bi>yige</bi> in spoken Mandarin.


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