Friday, October 31, 2014

Detail #117: Several Degrees of Definiteness vs. Lexical Distinctions

In a language with two levels of definiteness (definite vs. indefinite), a third level (specific) could be semi-present for some constituents by means of lexicalized distinction on verbs:

I look for a car (any car)
I search for a car (a specific car; I know which one it is, you probably don't)
I search for the car (that I mentioned earlier, and thus you know of it now too) 
Maybe this is done by some change in congruence on the verb - maybe all specific-or-definite verbs have a certain marking, while only definite nouns have a marking, or vice versa. Or maybe only certain verbs where the distinction is felt to be significant enough have pairs where the difference is meaningful. I would imagine the pairs would tend to look similar but not have any regular formation going on.

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