chapter  22
18 Pages

Definiteness, specificity and generic reference

WithAslı Göksel, Celia Kerslake

This chapter deals with the referential function of noun phrases. A noun phrase marked as definite refers to a specific entity or entities that the speaker assumes to be unambiguously identifiable by the hearer. A noun phrase is said to have generic reference when it refers not to any specific entity or entities but to an entire class, or to a typical member of that class. In Turkish, generic reference can be effected by both singular and plural noun phrases. The bare generic is a noun phrase without either bir or plural marking, which is used with generic reference. The plural generic, consisting of a plural-marked noun phrase, is closer in meaning to the indefinite generic than to the bare generic, in that it also generalizes from individual to class rather than vice versa. The tense/aspect/modality of the predicate is the most important indicator of whether a subject noun phrase has definite or generic reference.