Chapter published in:Advances in Iranian Linguistics
Edited by Richard K. Larson, Sedigheh Moradi and Vida Samiian
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 351] 2020
► pp. 119–135
The meaning of the Persian object marker rā
What it is not, and what it (probably) is
The Persian object marker rā is called many things, among them: marker of specificity (Karimi 1990), definiteness (Mahootian 1997), secondary topics (Dabir-Moghaddam 1992), and presuppositions (Ghomeshi 1996). These accounts capture the core of what rā is, yet also include a lot of what rā is not. I report novel examples that show rā is not an (exclusive) marker of specific or definite referents. It is also not an (exclusive) marker of (secondary) topics. Instead, rā’s core contribution is something shared by all these accounts: old or presupposed information. I show that the information presupposed by rā is an existence implication. A marked object like sandali-ro (“chair”-rā) implies that there is one or more chairs in the conversational context. This account captures several novel observations on the distribution of rā such as its optional presence on proper names in some contexts. I provide a formal and compositional analysis of simple Persian sentences with definite and indefinite objects.
Keywords: rā , specificity, definiteness, presupposition, topic, information structure
Published online: 22 July 2020
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