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A closer look at the Akan determiner bi: An epistemic indefinite analysis

Augustina Pokua Owusu

This study aims to shed light on the epistemic indefinite interpretation (EI) of the
Akan (Asante Twi) determiner bi which hitherto had not been discussed in the
Akan literature. In previous studies, Amfo (2010) and Arkoh (2011) review its ref-
erential or specific indefinite interpretation. The current study shows that in addi-
tion to the above interpretation when bi is used, the speaker signals that she does
not have access to all the information about who or what satisfies the existential
claim they are making. I employ Aloni (2001) and Aloni & Port’s (2015) theory of
conceptual covers and methods of identification to determine “knowledge” of a
referent in a particular context. Conceptual covers are sets of individual concepts
which exclusively and exhaustively covers the domain of individuals (Aloni 2001).
I show that the epistemic indefinite analysis and the specificity or referential anal-
ysis are compatible. When bi is used, the speaker asserts she can name a notewor-
thy or identifying property about the referent of the NP, which is the referential or
specificity interpretation. Additionally, she presupposes that she is ignorant about
further characterizing information about the referent, the epistemic indefinite in-
terpretation.

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