Definiteness and reflexivity: Indexing socially shared experience

Ritva Laury


This paper examines the use of definite and indefinite noun phrases in everyday conversations in Finnish and English to establish meaning and to alter and build context in interaction. The paper shows that participants in conversation use the formal contrast between definite and indefinite NPs not only to express identifiability and non-identifiability of the referent to their addressees, but that they also use it dynamically to make claims about socially shared reality, to create referents in discourse and to build a novel identity for existing referents, to actively construct frames and create roles within them, and to reorganize the participant structure of a speech event.

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