Definiteness determined by syntax: A case study in Tagalog
James N. Collins
October 2017

Using Tagalog as a case study, this paper provides an analysis of a cross-linguistically well attested phenomenon, namely, cases in which a bare NP's syntactic position is linked to its interpretation as definite or indefinite. Previous approaches to this phenomenon, including analyses of Tagalog, appeal to specialized interpretational rules like Diesing's Mapping Hypothesis. I argue that such empirical patterns fall out of general compositional principles so long as type-shifting operators are available to the compositional system. I begin by weighing in on some long-standing issues in the semantic analysis of Tagalog bare NPs. I show that bare NPs which are thematic patients are interpreted as presuppositional definites if marked with nominative case and as narrow scope indefinites if marked with genitive case. Bare NPs are analyzed as basically predicative. If a bare NP is local to its selecting verb, such as a genitive case-marked patient, it is existentially quantified over by the verb itself, generating an indefinite interpretation. If a bare NP moves to a derived position, it must type-shift in order to avoid a type-mismatch, generating a definite interpretation. This paper explains how a grammatical system like Tagalog's, which lacks articles but demonstrates other morphosyntactic strategies for signaling (in)definiteness, can be integrated into our understanding of compositional semantics.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003570
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted
keywords: tagalog, austronesian, philippine, syntax-semantics interface, type-shifting, definiteness, bare nps, quantification, semantics, syntax
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