Definiteness in Akan: Familiarity and uniqueness revisited

Carla Bombi


In the recent semantic literature, Akan is viewed as a language that distinguishes between uniqueness definites and familiarity definites (Schwarz 2009, 2013), following a proposal by Arkoh & Matthewson (2013). Based on a re-examination of previous evidence and on novel fieldwork data, this paper argues that this distinction is not supported in Akan. A novel analysis is put forward, in which the overt determiners in this language have a similar distribution to that of English the and that. Differences between English the and the Akan article nó are attributed to the availability of a definite bare noun, which is a competitor to the overt definite in Akan. The paper shows that definiteness distinctions cannot always be reduced to a uniqueness–familiarity dichotomy, and points to a more articulated view of definites cross-linguistically.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Carla Bombi