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131095Re: Articles and the Givenness Hierarchy

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  • Roger Mills
    May 1, 2005
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      David Peterson wrote:
      > To that end, we recently read a paper in my pragmatics class
      > which presented a theory about what the authors call givenness.
      > The reference is:
      > Gundel, J., N. Hedberg, R. Zacharski (1993). Cognitive Status and
      > the Form of Referring Expressions in Discourse. Language,
      > Vol. 69, 2:274-307.
      > (It's available from jstor.org.)
      Apparently not available to the Great Unwashed without Univ. affiliation.

      (snipping occasionally)
      > Okay, the givenness hierarchy. Essentially, the givenness
      > hierarchy is a hierarchy of how "in focus" a given NP is. .... This
      > hierarchy has six members, arranged
      > in a particular order. For any given member n, it is assumed
      > that a hierarchical position that is < n will be entailed by n.
      > Additionally, for any hierarchical position that is > n, it will be
      > assumed that n will conversationally implicate *not* n+1, n+2,
      > etc. >
      > The givenness hierarchy is as follows (going from least to
      > greatest):
      > 1. Type Identifiable
      > 2. Referential
      > 3. Uniquely Identifiable
      > 4. Familiar
      > 5. Activated
      > 6. In Focus

      Very interesting, particularly so for those who've had experience with
      languages without real def/indef. articles (Indonesian in my case-- I wonder
      how Russian works in this respect.) I don't have time right now to go thru
      this case by case (nor are the thoughts organized after only 2 cups of
      coffee...). But it strikes me that this is tied in with presuppositions
      ~narrative structure ~discourse analysis ~pragmatics??

      Way back when, one of my profs. pointed out a 3-way distinction in English:

      Looking for your lost dog, you approach a stranger: Have you seen a dog?
      (You could describe it a little bit, but you could delay that pending an
      answer 'yes'.)

      You ask your neighbor: Have you seen my dog? (If you have more than one dog,
      you'd have to be more specific)-- One thing that has stuck in my mind from
      Indo. and relatives: a possessed form is _by its very nature_ definite; so
      are personal names.

      You ask a family member: Have you seen the dog?

      This 3-way distinction was certainly in my mind while I worked on Kash,
      along with a lot more; I suspect there's some way to indicate the proposed 6
      categories (there may be more??), but so much depends on context, doesn't

      Perhaps more later.
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