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The functional range of bare singular count nouns in English

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Abstract

One overlooked and highly polysemous English noun phrase form is the bare singular, i.e. a null determiner with a singular count noun complement. Occurring in all grammatical positions, this constituent shape is used in English for multiple functions. Examination of naturally occurring English data shows the conditions under which bare singulars are used as generics (with a meaning like bare plurals), as components of a predicate conveying a stereotypical activity (with an indefi nite meaning), and as markers of an identifiable referent (like nouns with definite articles, demonstratives, and possessive determiners). While generic and indefinite meanings are well documented for bare forms, the reading that picks out an identifi able referent is unexpected for a bare nominal. This range of meaning-based distinctions suggests additional theoretical consequences for cross-linguistic noun interpretation and DP-internal syntactic structure.

References

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