This paper examines the distribution of the definite and indefinite articles in some Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese constructions involving body part terms. Since the definite article can be used with non-unique body part terms, categorical uniqueness alone cannot explain the distribution. The paper compares corpus counts for article usage in sentences like Me duele una/la mano 'My hand hurts' for body part terms of different cardinality. The results show that the indefinite article is more frequent with higher cardinality body part terms ('tooth' and 'finger') than with the dual ('hand'). The effect of the cardinality of the set of candidates on the choice of the article is gradual. A pragmatic explanation of the effect is outlined, with the distribution of the article based on the distinguishability of the body part.
Selected Proceedings of the 8th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Timothy L. Face and Carol A. Klee
Table of contents