Typological correlations in nominal determination in Romance

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This paper discusses divergences and significant typological correlations found in the family of Romance languages, specifically French, Italian and Spanish. It proposes to reinterpret the complex system of indefinite nominal determination in two central Romance languages, viz. French and Italian, which both feature an indefinite article and a partitive article, as a device of nominal classification in a broad sense, marking the conceptually important distinction between a single, contoured referent and a non-contoured substance. It is argued that this classification system arose when nominal declension in Latin, which differentiated these two referentially highly relevant cognitive concepts via overt gender and number affixes, was partially or completely lost. In contrast to modern central Romance languages, which require obligatory (indefinite) determination in almost every argument position, modern peripheral Romance languages like Romanian or Spanish, possessing a simpler and more flexible system of determination, developed a system of differential object marking in order to unambiguously indicate contoured and highly individualized referents in direct object position.


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