On Definiteness and Information Trigger in Arabic

Marwan Jarrah, Aseel Zibin


The current research argues that definiteness in Arabic can be used for formal purposes. The definite article and the nunnation suffix -n (NnnS) manage the information flow in the sentence through maintaining accepted informativity balance. Additionally, the study assumes that NnnS, -n, is not an indefinite article. Its main function is rather to stimulate the speaker to add information about indefinite nouns. The information triggered by the NnnS is labelled as 'balancing materials', whose aim is to restore sentence acceptability which degrades due to indefinite nouns. Balancing materials can be of two types: semantic and formal. When the speaker balks at adding either types of balancing materials, the definite article is used, instead. Here, the definite article resolves the tension of adding information about the indefinite nouns and refraining from doing so. These issues are supported by empirical evidence. With this new role of definiteness, new insights into some pertinent issues, including sentence building and translation are offered.

Keywords: Definiteness; information control; sentence acceptability; negative transfer; Arabic

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