Negative polarity as scope marking

Christian Barker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    What is the communicative value of negative polarity? That is, why do so many languages maintain a stock of special indefinites (weak Negative Polarity Items) that occur only in a proper subset of the contexts in which ordinary indefinites can appear? Previous answers include: marking the validity of downward inferences; marking the invalidity of veridical inferences; or triggering strengthening implications. My starting point for exploring a new answer is the fact that an NPI must always take narrow scope with respect to its licensing context. In contrast, ordinary indefinites are notorious for taking wide scope. So whatever other functions NPIs may have, they at least serve as an utterly reliable signal that an indefinite is taking narrow scope. As also proposed in recent work of Kusumoto and Tancredi, I will show that NPIs are only licensed in contexts in which the wide scope construal of an indefinite fails to entail the narrow scope. In other words, weak NPIs occur only in contexts in which taking narrow scope matters for interpretation. Thus one part of the explanation for the ubiquity and robust stability of negative polarity is that it signals scope relations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-28
    Number of pages28
    JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
    DOIs
    StateAccepted/In press - May 7 2018

    Fingerprint

    invalidity
    interpretation
    language
    Values
    Negative Polarity

    Keywords

    • Downward entailing
    • Exhaustivity
    • Monotonicity
    • Negative polarity
    • Scope
    • Strengthening
    • Veridicality

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Philosophy
    • Linguistics and Language

    Cite this

    Negative polarity as scope marking. / Barker, Christian.

    In: Linguistics and Philosophy, 07.05.2018, p. 1-28.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Barker, Christian. / Negative polarity as scope marking. In: Linguistics and Philosophy. 2018 ; pp. 1-28.
    @article{6cb89f8e82ab4a84842d88091f3a0421,
    title = "Negative polarity as scope marking",
    abstract = "What is the communicative value of negative polarity? That is, why do so many languages maintain a stock of special indefinites (weak Negative Polarity Items) that occur only in a proper subset of the contexts in which ordinary indefinites can appear? Previous answers include: marking the validity of downward inferences; marking the invalidity of veridical inferences; or triggering strengthening implications. My starting point for exploring a new answer is the fact that an NPI must always take narrow scope with respect to its licensing context. In contrast, ordinary indefinites are notorious for taking wide scope. So whatever other functions NPIs may have, they at least serve as an utterly reliable signal that an indefinite is taking narrow scope. As also proposed in recent work of Kusumoto and Tancredi, I will show that NPIs are only licensed in contexts in which the wide scope construal of an indefinite fails to entail the narrow scope. In other words, weak NPIs occur only in contexts in which taking narrow scope matters for interpretation. Thus one part of the explanation for the ubiquity and robust stability of negative polarity is that it signals scope relations.",
    keywords = "Downward entailing, Exhaustivity, Monotonicity, Negative polarity, Scope, Strengthening, Veridicality",
    author = "Christian Barker",
    year = "2018",
    month = "5",
    day = "7",
    doi = "10.1007/s10988-018-9234-2",
    language = "English (US)",
    pages = "1--28",
    journal = "Linguistics and Philosophy",
    issn = "0165-0157",
    publisher = "Springer Netherlands",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Negative polarity as scope marking

    AU - Barker, Christian

    PY - 2018/5/7

    Y1 - 2018/5/7

    N2 - What is the communicative value of negative polarity? That is, why do so many languages maintain a stock of special indefinites (weak Negative Polarity Items) that occur only in a proper subset of the contexts in which ordinary indefinites can appear? Previous answers include: marking the validity of downward inferences; marking the invalidity of veridical inferences; or triggering strengthening implications. My starting point for exploring a new answer is the fact that an NPI must always take narrow scope with respect to its licensing context. In contrast, ordinary indefinites are notorious for taking wide scope. So whatever other functions NPIs may have, they at least serve as an utterly reliable signal that an indefinite is taking narrow scope. As also proposed in recent work of Kusumoto and Tancredi, I will show that NPIs are only licensed in contexts in which the wide scope construal of an indefinite fails to entail the narrow scope. In other words, weak NPIs occur only in contexts in which taking narrow scope matters for interpretation. Thus one part of the explanation for the ubiquity and robust stability of negative polarity is that it signals scope relations.

    AB - What is the communicative value of negative polarity? That is, why do so many languages maintain a stock of special indefinites (weak Negative Polarity Items) that occur only in a proper subset of the contexts in which ordinary indefinites can appear? Previous answers include: marking the validity of downward inferences; marking the invalidity of veridical inferences; or triggering strengthening implications. My starting point for exploring a new answer is the fact that an NPI must always take narrow scope with respect to its licensing context. In contrast, ordinary indefinites are notorious for taking wide scope. So whatever other functions NPIs may have, they at least serve as an utterly reliable signal that an indefinite is taking narrow scope. As also proposed in recent work of Kusumoto and Tancredi, I will show that NPIs are only licensed in contexts in which the wide scope construal of an indefinite fails to entail the narrow scope. In other words, weak NPIs occur only in contexts in which taking narrow scope matters for interpretation. Thus one part of the explanation for the ubiquity and robust stability of negative polarity is that it signals scope relations.

    KW - Downward entailing

    KW - Exhaustivity

    KW - Monotonicity

    KW - Negative polarity

    KW - Scope

    KW - Strengthening

    KW - Veridicality

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85046541433&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85046541433&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1007/s10988-018-9234-2

    DO - 10.1007/s10988-018-9234-2

    M3 - Article

    SP - 1

    EP - 28

    JO - Linguistics and Philosophy

    JF - Linguistics and Philosophy

    SN - 0165-0157

    ER -