Determinacy and Participant Formation:
De Marmore Angeli


John Wade Baker




This study characterizes and compares the semantics of determiners in two Philippine langauges, Ilokano and Yogad. In both languages, the function of this semantics is to form and delineate participants by segregating them from the ground of quality and event and also to orient within an existing matrix of knowledge the participants thus formed. The semantics is given the name 'determinacy' as a means of comparing it across languages, including English.

Determinacy is motivated by the cognitive principle FOCUSSED---DIFFUSE. This principle is inherent in the process by which variance in focal attention organizes the continuum of cognitive experience of an organism. Variable focal attention is the cognitive-psychological basis of determinacy and, therefore, of participant formation in language.

The operation of the FOCUSSED---DIFFUSE principle outside language is illustrated in human vision (including the evolution and neurohistology of the human retina and visual cortex), visual perception (foveal tracking, reading, viewing complex objects), and in sonar echolocation in bats. Because the FOCUSSED---DIFFUSE principle is a general cognitive universal and a parameter of meaning characteristic of intelligence itself, the study concludes that determinacy is also a linguistic universal, i.e., a constant presence in language, even in languages which lack determining forms. The study therefore rejects the notion of the modularity of language or of linguistic intelligence.