QP for indefiniteness: With special reference to Sinhala and Chinese

Jiajuan Xiong, Chu Ren Huang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This paper proposes a QP account for indefiniteness in a range of languages, with QP being situated between DP and NumP. This proposal differs from the traditional DP framework crucially in two aspects: (i) definiteness and indefiniteness are expressed by DP and QP, respectively, and their co-occurrence is theoretically allowed, under due circumstances; (ii) both [Spec, DP] and [Spec, QP] can serve as the landing sites for an XP under a wh-movement, which can thus be associated with both definiteness and indefiniteness. Crucially, the postulation of QP accounts for several nominal phenomena in the Sinhala language, which pose serious challenges to the traditional DP framework. First, Sinhala features the existence of indefinite articles as well as the absence of definite ones; second, an indefinite article can co-occur with a demonstrative in one and the same nominal phrase; third, NP necessarily precedes [numeral + (classifier)], regardless of its (in-)definiteness; fourth, indefinite quantifiers exhibit disparities along the line of their (in-)sensitivity toward the feature of animacy. All these phenomena can be adequately captured by the proposal of QP; specifically, the first three are explained by the DP–QP division whereas the fourth one by the QP–NumP distinction. The DP proposal is further supported by the need to have both DP–QP and QP–NumP divisions in the Chinese language, as well as the intuitive account it provides for the “double definiteness” in Scandinavian languages. In sum, the QP postulation is strongly motivated by cross-lingual evidence for the account of definiteness and indefiniteness as two separate but related unary features instead of binary value of the same feature, e.g. [+/−DEF].

Original languageEnglish
Article number102793
Early online date6 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Chinese
  • DP
  • Indefiniteness
  • NumP
  • QP
  • Sinhala

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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