Emphatic elements and the development of definite articles

Evidence for a layered DP in early Romance

  • Judy Bernstein William Paterson University
  • Francisco Ordóñez Stony Brook University
  • Francesc Roca Universitat de Girona
Keywords: determiners, syntax, demonstratives, grammaticalization, Catalan, Latin, Romance, Picard, double determiner systems


This paper examines the evolution of double article systems in two Romance varieties, Balearic Catalan and Picard. In these languages the two definite articles have different syntactic distributions. We account for these double article systems with a multi-layered DP analysis that maps semantically onto Löbner’s (1985, 2011) Uniqueness Scale, further developed in Ortmann (2014). We trace the origins of the present-day definite articles to the Latin demonstrative ille (Catalan, Picard), emphatic pronoun and adnominal ipse (Catalan), and emphatic interjection particle ecce (Picard).The development of the present-day definite articles involved a stage where an emphatic form competed with the demonstrative. In the majority of the present-day Romance languages, a single definite article emerged from the competition that was already underway in Latin. In the Romance varieties considered here, two different forms emerged, but they took on different semantic interpretations. We show how the relevant semantic properties of the three Latin forms are discernible in the distribution of the definite articles that developed from them and that still exist in the present-day varieties.