Skip to main content Accessibility help

Definiteness without D: The case of ang and ng in Tagalog

  • Ileana Paul (a1), Key Cortes (a1) and Lareina Milambiling (a1)


This paper considers the syntactic and semantic properties of two vocabulary items in Tagalog, ang and ng. It is shown that although ang and ng appear to encode definiteness (via familiarity), they are in fact unmarked for definiteness, being compatible with both familiar and novel readings. Crucial data from modification by weak quantifiers are presented in favour of this description. The default interpretation of ang and ng as familiar and novel, respectively, arises due to their syntactic position (subject versus object). Given that ang and ng mark case, it is argued that they are case markers in K° and not determiners.


Cet article s’intéresse aux propriétés syntaxiques et sémantiques de deux items lexicaux en tagalog, ang et ng. Nous montrons que bien que ang et ng semblent encoder la définitude (via la familiarité), ils sont non-marqués pour la définitude puisqu’ils sont compatibles à la fois avec une lecture familière et une lecture nouvelle. Nous présentons comme éléments de preuves des données qui incluent la modification par des quantificateurs faibles. L’interprétation par défaut de ang et ng comme familier et nouveau, respectivement, dépend de leurs positions syntaxiques (sujet versus objet). Étant donné que ang et ng sont des marqueurs casuels, nous soutenons l’idée selon laquelle qu’ils sont des marqueurs de cas de type K° et non pas des déterminants.



Hide All
Abney, Stephen. 1987. The English noun phrase in its sentential aspect. Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Adams, Karen and Manaster-Ramer, Alexis. 1988. Some questions of topic/focus choice in Tagalog. Oceanic Linguistics 27:79-101.
Aldridge, Edith. 2004. Ergativity and word order in Austronesian languages. Doctoral dissertation, Cornell University.
Aldridge, Edith. 2012. Antipassive and ergativity in Tagalog. Lingua 122:192-203.
Arkoh, Ruby and Matthewson, Lisa. 2013. A familiar definite article in Akan. Lingua 123:1-30.
Bell, Sarah. 1978. Two differences in definiteness in Cebuano and Tagalog. Oceanic Linguistics 17:1-9.
Billings, Loren. 2005. Ordering clitics and postverbal R-expressions in Tagalog. A unified analysis? In Verb first: On the syntax of verb-initial languages, ed. Carnie, Andrew, Harley, Heidi, and Dooley, Sheila Ann, 303-339. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Bobaljik Jonathan, David and Thráinsson, Höskuldur. 1998. Two heads aren’t always better than one. Syntax 1:37-71.
Borer, Hagit. 2005. In name only: Structuring sense, volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bošković, Željko. 2008. What will you have, DP or NP? In Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, ed. Elfner, Emily and Walkow, Martin, 101-114. Amherst, MA: GLSA.
Bošković, Željko. 2012. On NPs and clauses. In Discourse and grammar: From sentence types to lexical categories, ed. Grewendorf, Günther and Zimmermann, Thomas Ede, 179-242. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Chen, Sihwei. 2012. Indefinites in Atayal: Scope interactions and case. Paper presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association, Taipei
Cheng, Lisa Lai-Shen and Sybesma, Rint. 1999. Bare and not-so-bare nouns and the structure of NP. Linguistic Inquiry 30:509-542.
Cheng, Lisa Lai-Shen and Sybesma, Rint. 2012. Classifiers and DP. Linguistic Inquiry 43:634-650.
Chierchia, Gennaro. 1998. On reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language Semantics 6:339—405.
Cortes, Key, Milambiling, Lareina, and Paul, Ileana. 2012. On Tagalog determiners. In Proceedings of the 2012. annual conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association, ed. Caxaj, Paula. Wilfrid Laurier University.
Despic, Miloje. 2011. Syntax in the absence of Determiner Phrase. Doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut.
Despic, Miloje. 2013. Binding and the structure of NP in Serbo-Croatian. Linguistic Inquiry 44: 239-270.
Diesing, Molly. 1992. Indefinites. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Farkas, Donka. 1994. Specificity and scope. In Langues et Grammaire 1, ed. Nash, Lea and soulas, George, 119-137. Paris: University of Paris VIII.
Ghomeshi, Jila, Paul, Ileana, and Wiltschko, Martina, eds. 2009. Determiners: Universals and variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Gillon, Carrie and Solveiga, Armoskaite. 2011. Diagnosis: D. Paper presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, Toronto.
Gorrie, Colin, Kellner, Alexandra, and Massam, Diane. 2010. Determiners in Niuean. Australian Journal of Linguistics 30:349-365.
De Guzman, Videa. 1988. Ergative analysis for Philippine languages: An analysis. In Studies in Austronesian linguistics, ed. McGinn, Richard, 323-345. Athens, OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies.
Heim, Irene. 1982. The semantics of definite and indefinite NPs. New York: Garland.
Heycock, Caroline and Kroch, Anthony. 1999. Pseudocleft connectedness: Implications for the LF interface level. Linguistic Inquiry 30:365-397.
Higginbotham, James. 1985. On semantics. Linguistic Inquiry 16:547-593.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus. 1998. Regularity in irregularity: Article use in adpositional phrases. Linguistic Typology 2:315-353.
Himmelmann, Nikolaus. 2013. Notes on “noun phrase structure” in Tagalog. Ms., University of Cologne.
Kaufman, Daniel. 2009. Austronesian nominalism and its consequences: A Tagalog case study. Theoretical Linguistics 35:1-49.
Keenan, Edward L. 1976. Towards a universal definition of “subject”. In Subject and topic, ed. Li, Charles N., 303-333. New York: Academic Press.
Kroeger, Paul. 1993. Phrase structure and grammatical relations in Tagalog. Stanford: CSLI Publications.
Longobardi, Giuseppe. 1994. Reference and proper names: A theory of N-movement in syntax and Logical Form. Linguistic Inquiry 25:609-665.
Lyons, Christopher. 1999. Definiteness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maclachlan, Anna. 1996. Aspects of ergativity in Tagalog. Doctoral dissertation, McGill University.
Matthewson, Lisa. 1998. Determiner systems and quantiftcational strategies: Evidence from Salish. The Hague: Holland Academic Graphics.
Paul, Ileana. 2009. On the presence versus absence of determiners. In Determiners: Universals and variation, ed. Ghomeshi, Jila, Paul, Ileana, and Wiltschko, Martina, 215-242. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Picallo, Carme. 1991. nominals and nominalizations in Catalan. Probus 3:279-316.
Postal, Paul. 1966. On so-called “pronouns” in English. In Modern studies in English: Readings in Transformational Grammar, ed. Reibel, David A. and Schane, Sanford A., 73-113. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Reid, Lawrence. 2002. Determiners, nouns, or what? Problems in the analysis of some commonly occurring forms in Philippine languages. Oceanic Linguistics 41:295-309.
Richards, Norvin. 2000. Another look at Tagalog subjects. In Formal issues in Austronesian linguistics, ed. Paul, Ileana, Phillips, Vivianne, and Travis, Lisa, 105-116. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Ritter, Elizabeth. 1992. Cross-linguistic evidence for Number Phrase. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 37:197-218.
Sabbagh, Joey. 2009. Existential sentences in Tagalog. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 27:675-719.
Sabbagh, Joey. 2016. Specificity and objecthood in Tagalog. Journal of Linguistics.
Schachter, Paul. 1976. The subject in Philippine languages: Topic, actor, actor-topic, or none of the above. In Subject and topic, ed. Li, Charles N., 493-518. New York: Academic Press.
Schachter, Paul and Otanes, Fe. 1972. Tagalog reference grammar. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Simpson, Andrew. 2005. Classifiers and DP structure in Southeast Asia. In Handbook of comparative syntax, ed. Cinque, Guglielmo and Kayne, Richard, 806-838. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stowell, Tim. 1989. Subjects, specifiers and X-bar theory. In Alternative conceptions of phrase structure, ed. Baltin, Mark and Kroch, Anthony, 232-262. New York: Academic Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique
  • ISSN: 0008-4131
  • EISSN: 1710-1115
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-linguistics-revue-canadienne-de-linguistique
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed