Pragmatic Variation Among Specificity Markers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines the semantics and pragmatics of two markers of epistemic specificity: reduced indefinite this in English (Prince E, On the inferencing of indefinite-this NPs. In: Joshi A, Webber B, Sag I (eds) Elements of discourse understanding, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 231–250, 1981) and reduced odin “one” in Russian. It is shown that while the two markers have many properties in common, they are subject to subtly different pragmatic requirements. It is proposed that while indefinite this carries a felicity condition of noteworthy property (Ionin T, Nat Lang Semant 14:175–234, 2006), reduced odin carries a felicity condition of identifiability (cf. Farkas D, Varieties of indefinites. In: Jackson B (ed) Proceedings of SALT 12, Ithaca, Cornell University/CLC Publications, Ithaca, 2002b). Empirical consequences of this distinction are discussed, and crosslinguistic evidence from German and Hebrew is brought in to show that both types of felicity conditions are attested on specificity markers crosslinguistically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDifferent Kinds of Specificity Across Languages
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NameStudies in Linguistics and Philosophy
ISSN (Print)0924-4662
ISSN (Electronic)2215-034X


  • Felicity Condition
  • Indefinite Article
  • Noteworthy Property
  • Relative Clause
  • Specificity Marker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy


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