The pragmatics of the Chinese nominal marker de 的
我的爸爸 “my dad” versus 我爸爸 “my dad”
Previous studies of the Chinese nominal marker de 的 attempted to explain its optionality in ways that have fallen short in providing a full account. In this paper, a comprehensive nominal continuum is hypothesized with proper nouns and common nouns prohibiting the use of an internal de at one end. In the middle of the continuum, depending on the degree of lexicalization, there are compounds that may have word-like (no de option) or phrase-like (with de option) properties. At the other end are noun phrases that have individual member, or members, of a type/set readings. The more a compound is lexicalized into a word, the less likely de can occur in front of its determinatum. Whereas the use of 我的爸爸 “my dad” is more likely in a title for its thematic importance, the use of 我爸爸 “my dad” is found tied to its uniqueness in a discourse context.
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