Inferable and Partitive Indefinites in Topic Position

Von Heusinger, Klaus
Özge, Umut
The topic position in a sentence is reserved for familiar and/or referential arguments (Kuno, 1972; Reinhart, 1981; Portner & Yabushita, 2001). Thus, the typical topic is a definite expression such as a pronoun, a proper name or a definite noun phrase. However, indefinites can appear in topic position if they are referential, i.e. specific or generic. Following Prince (1981c) we argue that indefinite noun phrases can also be topics if they are weakly familiar, i.e. discourse-linked. We assume that there are (at least) two different ways to link an indefinite to the previous discourse: (i) partitive indefinites are linked to the discourse by a contextually established membership relation (Prince, 1981c; Enç, 1991); (ii) inferable indefinites (Prince, 1981b, 1992) are linked via the concepts associated with the descriptive part of the indefinite and the anchor expression. We present the results of acceptability rating studies that support the following claims: (i) indefinites as topics are in general acceptable, but less so than indefinites in non-topic position; (ii) indefinites in topic position are better rated if they are discourse-linked; (iii) inferable indefinites make better topics in comparison to partitive indefinites.
Citation Formats
K. Von Heusinger and U. Özge, Inferable and Partitive Indefinites in Topic Position. 2021, p. 140.