w07_a: Nouns with (intrinsically) unique referents in object position can be bare

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    Nouns with (intrinsically) unique referents in object position

    To code for all possibilities, and for ease of the task, there are five property definitions for nouns with (intrinsically) unique referent in object position:

    can be 'bare', must have an 'article', can have an 'article', must have a 'special article'

w07_a: Nouns with (intrinsically) unique referents can be bare in object position

This property is set to 'yes' if an unmodified noun with intrinsically unique reference (e.g. sun, earth, sky, equator, ...) can be 'bare' in object position.

A bare noun phrase, for the purposes of this set of properties,

  1. lacks an article (e.g. a ,definite an indefinite or a partitive article, i.e. English of+art, French de+art, Italian di+art, etc)
  2. (for languages without articles) exhibits no alternation in form with indefinite (singular count) nouns in object position (i.e. intrinsically unique nouns and indefinite (singular count nouns) in object position have the same form)
    NOTE for languages without articles = if nouns with intrinsically unique reference in object position have the same form as definite (singular or plural count) nouns in object position, and this form is different than that of indefinite (singular or plural count) nouns in object position, this counts as "article"

  3. [ More contexts]

Elicitation contexts

John observed ______ moon
A cloud covered ______ sun
The balloon reached ______ sky

Additional instructions

The noun must have an intrinsically unique referent and must be unmodified (no quantifiers, no adjectives, no possessors, no relative clauses, no adpositional complements...)



Russian in “yes” for this property: nouns with intrinsically unique reference can be bare in object position.

  • i. Ivan issledoval Lun-u.
    Ivan investigated Moon-fem.sg.acc
    Ivan studied the moon

There is no difference in case form between nouns with intrinsically unique reference and (definite or indefinite) singular count nouns in object position (ii).

  • ii. Student-oy poprosili narisoyat' ljuboe nasekomoe.
    Student-pl.acc asked.pl draw.inf any.neut insect.neut.
    Ivan narisoval pčel-u.
    Ivan draw.pst bee-fem.sg.acc.
    Students were asked to draw insects. Ivan draw the/a bee.


English is “no” for this property: nouns with intrinsically unique reference cannot be bare in object position (i).

i.   a.   *John observed moon
     b.   *A cloud covered sun
     c.   *The balloon reached sky

They must have a (definite) article (ii).

ii.   a.   John observed the moon
      b.   A cloud covered the sun
      c.   The balloon reached the sky

They cannot have an indefinite article (iii) [with the exception of marked pragmatic interpretations] .

iii.   a.   *John observed a moon
       b.   *A cloud covered a sun
       c.   *The balloon reached a sky
Contributed by: Cristina Guardiano and Hilda Koopman
Language Value Contributor Comments
  Words: Kofi hu -u awia .
  Gloss: Kofi see -Pst sun
  Translation: ‘Kofi saw the sun.’
  Contributor: AUGUSTINA OWUSU
   Ancient Greek Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Armenian (Eastern) No Sona Haroutyunian
+ Basaa Yes Paul Roger Bassong
  Words: Tɔŋɛ́ a- ḿ-ɓeŋgɛ́ sóŋ
  Gloss: 1.Tɔŋɛ́ 1.SM-PRS-look 9.moon
  Translation: 'Tɔŋɛ́ is looking/looks at the moon'
  Contributor: Paul Roger Bassong
   Calabrian (Northern) No Giuseppina Silvestri
+ Cantonese (Guangzhou) Yes Zixian Qiu
  Words: John guncaat-dou jyutgwong
  Gloss: John observe-DOU moon
  Translation: John observed the moon.
  Contributor: Zixian Qiu
   Cypriot Greek No Marios Andreou
+ Dida Lakota (diéko) Yes Gohon Fabienne Stéphanie Attéby
  Words:  ɪ̄ nî jrú zèka
  Gloss: I see.PERF sun today
  Translation: I saw the sun today
  Contributor: Gohon Fabienne Stéphanie Attéby
+ Dutch No Hilda Koopman
  Words: * Ik heb gisteren maan gezien
  Gloss: I have yesterday moon seen
  Translation: (attempted): I saw the moon yesterday
  Contributor: Hilda Koopman
   English No the property authors
   Faroese No Hjalmar Páll Petersen
   French No Hilda Koopman
   French (Ivorian) Yes Akpoué Josué
   Gothic Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Greek Yes Giorgos Spathas
  Words: Thel-o ili-o.
  Gloss: want-1.SG.IMP sun-SG.ACC
  Translation: I want sun.
  Comment: Nouns with (intrinsically) unique referents can be bare in object position when they are internal arguments of a sub-set of intensional verbs (desire- and seacrh-verbs). The example means that the speaker wants sunlight, rather than the physical object in the sky, as is the case when the definite article is included (Thel-o ton ili-o. / want-1.SG.IMP DEF.SG.ACC sun-SG.ACC).
  Contributor: Giorgos Spathas
   Greek (Calabria) No Cristina Guardiano
   Greek (Cappadocian) No Petros Karatsareas
   Greek (Homer) Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Hebrew (Biblical) No Massimo Gargiulo In poetry sometimes they can be bare, for example Sal 74(73),16: "hakinota ma'or washamash" = thou hast prepared the light and the sun
   Italian No Cristina Guardiano
   Italian (Reggiano) No Giovanni Roversi
+ Korean Yes Shin-Sook Kim
  Words: Mina-nun tal-ul po-ass-ta
  Gloss: Mina-TOP moon-ACC look.at-PST-DECL
  Translation: Mina looked at the moon.
  Contributor: Shin-Sook Kim
   Kusaal No Hasiyatu Abubakari
   Latin Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
+ Muyang Yes Bebey Théodore
  Words: Mo modzò kiyi e djimelvu
  Gloss: 1pl look.P1 moon at telescope-in
  Translation: We watched the moon through a teleskope.
  Comment: Same for subjects: Eweni mlang-melefit dzelata. Yesterday space-god clear. “Yersterday, the sky was clear” (Since there is only one sky, it can never be definite in Muyang.
  Contributor: Bebey Théodore
+ Oluwanga (Eji) Yes Ceciliane Odangah
  Words: John y-a-lola o-mwesi
  Gloss: SA - PST -see AUG-moon
  Translation: John saw the moon
  Contributor: Ceciliane Odangah
  Words: I-baluni yola mwikulu /
  Gloss: C9 -balloon reached LOC.NC. sky
  Translation: The balloon reached the sky
  Comment: In the locative, the AUG seems to be generally absent. This is independent of the definite indefinite reading of direct objects.
  Contributor: Ceciliane Odangah
   Portuguese No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Romanian No Monica Alexandrina Irimia
   Russian Yes Nina Radkevich
   Sicilian No Cristina Guardiano
+ Spanish No Alejandro Rodriguez
  Words: *Juan observó luna
  Gloss: John observe.PST.3SG moon
  Translation: *John observed moon
  Contributor: Alejandro Rodriguez
+ Teramano No Iara Mantenuto
  Words: *dʒuvannə aguardə lunə
  Gloss: Giovanni watch.3SG moon.SG.F
  Translation: ‘Giovanni watches the moon.’
  Contributor: Iara Mantenuto
   Tupi (Ancient) Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Turkish No Sozen Ozkan
+ Vietnamese Yes Jimmy Nguyen
  Words: Em xem mặt trăng.
  Gloss: I see moon
  Translation: I see the moon.
  Contributor: Jimmy Nguyen
   Wuhu Chinese Yes Zhuo Chen