Determiners and definiteness: Functional semantics and structural differentiation

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Both functional and formal approaches frequently suggest that structural and semantic categories ultimately match up (possibly even universally). They arrive at this result, however, via different descriptive strategies: most functionbased approaches set up structures primarily based on semantic/functional description, subsequently looking for distributional confirmation. Formal descriptions, on the other hand, primarily focus on distributional patterns, but often aim to show that these correspond to semantic distinctions. In contrast, I try to show that the determiner category comprises heterogeneous elements whose shared function must be understood as a result of a function-based structural pattern imposed top-down (partially arbitrary, partially motivated), which carves out a specific slot in the complex noun phrase for the basic ‘grounding’ choice between definite and indefinite reference.


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