Hakha Lai Definites

  • James C. Wamsley Indiana University


This paper uses fieldwork data to investigate definite expressions in Hakha Lai, a Kuki-Chin language spoken in western Burma/Myanmar and southern Indianapolis. Previous investigations of definite expressions (Hawkins 1978, Heim 1982, Roberts 2003, Schwarz 2009, and others) have posited properties such as uniqueness and identifiability as well as anaphoric reference as key features of definiteness. In an analysis of German definite articles, Schwarz (2009) proposes that definite expressions can be divided into two categories, weak definites, correlated with the semantic uniqueness of a referent, and strong definites which are correlated with anaphoric reference. Hakha Lai has two postnominal adjuncts, kha and cu, whose behavior is consistent with Schwarz’s weak and strong definites. This data from Hakha Lai expands upon previous research on definite expressions cross-linguistically and investigates the relationship between definiteness and its morphosemantic representations in natural language.