Positive polarity predicates

Hoeksema, J., Mar-2018, In : Linguistics. 56, 2, p. 361-400 40 p.

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This paper presents Dutch and English predicates that behave as positive polarity items and provides a partial, semantically-grounded classification of this group of PPIs. The items are studied from the perspective of anti-licensing behavior (by negation, either locally or long-distance, in questions, and by weakly negative quantifiers such as little and few). Predicates, unlike quantifiers, do not have wide scope readings (which allow quantificational PPIs such as somebody to appear in the syntactic scope of negation). Using a mixture of corpus data and introspective judgments, we show that anti-licensing among PPIs is not uniform (mirroring earlier results on NPIs which likewise show considerable variation). Rescuing contexts are likewise shown to differ among PPIs. Some of the PPI predicates show complex interaction with illocutionary force (especially mandative force), and others with differences between presupposed and asserted propositions. High degree predicates, finally, point toward the existence of connections between the marking of degree and positive polarity. PPI status is argued to be the result of a complex interaction between the effects of negation and other nonveridical operators, and other semantic factors, which differ among subclasses of PPIs. Anti-licensing by weak negation correlates fairly well with anti-licensing by long-distance negation, a finding which is (partly) in line with a recent proposal by Spector (2014, Global positive polarity items and obligatory exhaustivity. Semantics and Pragmatics 7(11). 1–61) concerning global PPIs. However, we find there to be more variation among the PPIs studied here than the classification of Spector (2014) or any binary classification stipulates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-400
Number of pages40
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2018



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