On the topicalization of indefinite NPs

Gregory L. Ward, Ellen F. Prince

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


It has been claimed that felicitous Topicalization (TOP) disallows: preposed indefinite NPs in general, specific indefinites, and nonspecific indefinites. However, none of these claims can be maintained. An examination of naturally-occuring data reveals that, in fact, the definiteness distinction is irrelevant to TOP. What is relevant is that one of the discourse conditions that a felicitous TOP must meet is that the referent of the preposed NP stand in a salient partially ordered set relationship to previously evoked referents. Of course, referents related to the prior discourse are usually, but not necessarily, represented by definites, and it is no doubt this near match of form and function that has misled previous researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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