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12. Bare nouns and articles in Sranan

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Abstract

The paper investigates the distribution of determiners in Sranan, which differs both from that in the lexifier, English, and the Gbe substrate. From an early stage onwards, the article <i>wan</i> functions as a marker of indefinite singularity with nonspecific as well as specific indefinites; it may, however, also be absent. Similarly, the definite articles (<i>n</i>)<i>a</i> (<sc>SG</sc>) and <i>den</i> (<sc>PL</sc>), while exhibiting further grammaticalization over time, do not obligatorily appear with all definite nominals even in the modern language, and definite, pragmatically important arguments can appear as bare nouns. On the whole, bare nouns are open to several interpretations with respect to definiteness, specificity or referentiality, and number delimitation, precluding a zero article to assume a unique value. Even though specificity, or pragmatic referentiality, plays a role in the distribution of the articles, number and definiteness are the primary distinctions. The distribution of articles in Sranan does not conform to the proposal by Bickerton (e.g. 1981) and Giv&#243;n (e.g. 1984b), nor can it be fully accounted for by assuming that articles express individuation while bare nouns typically refer to mass-like collectives, as suggested by Mufwene (e.g. 1986).

References

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