From local blocking to Cyclic Agree

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This paper shows that, rather than being necessary for argumenthood or referentiality, determiners in Old French were optional, but used in relation to discourse properties such as focus/emphasis on the one hand, and in relation to phonological/metric requirements on the other. The choice between the use of a bare noun and the use of a noun with a determiner was not free, but created a one-to-one mapping between form and function. This one-to-one mapping between form and function disappeared once the insertion of determiners became obligatory. It is shown that the compulsory insertion of determiners in modern French is connected to an alternation in the morphology of nominals and that it is driven by the operation Cyclic Agree.


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