How functional are referential aids?
This chapter assesses several aspects of how conventional referential aids function in discourse. First, all languages have a functional need to preclude referential conflicts. How many conventional referential aids must a language have to satisfy this need? Do some languages put most of the load on one device, and other languages split it evenly between several? These questions are addressed in Section 9.1. Section 9.2 deals with the varying placement of referent sortings in clause, introduced as a typological parameter in Chapter 8. The question here is whether the site of expression chosen by the given referent sorting affects its functioning in discourse. Section 9.3 addresses the functional bases of several kinds of referent sortings, both stable and current. Specifically, this section explores the question: do referent sortings evolve in languages for relieving referential conflict, or, alternately, do they evolve for other reasons and their use as referential aids is a rather opportunistic one? Sections 9.4 and 9.5 present case studies devoted to two related West African languages belonging to the Atlantic family: Pulaar and Sereer. Both of these languages have rather extensive noun class systems, but are very different in whether they use noun class as a referential aid. These case studies indicate that connections between referent sortings available in a language and their referential implementation are not rigid and deterministic.
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