Positive polarity - negative polarity

Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 22 (2):409-452. (2004)
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Positive polarity items (PPIs) are generally thought to have the boring property that they cannot scope below negation. The starting point of the paper is the observation that their distribution is significantly more complex; specifically, someone/something-type PPIs share properties with negative polarity items (NPIs). First, these PPIs are disallowed in the same environments that license yet type NPIs; second, adding any NPI-licenser rescues the illegitimate constellation. This leads to the conclusion that these PPIs have the combined properties of yet-type and ever-type NPIs: what appears to be a prohibition is nothing but “halfway licensing”. The paper goes on to propose a unification of the analyses of rescuable PPIs, NPIs, and negative concord, and questions the grounding of polarity sensitivity in the scalar or the referential semantics of the items involved.

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Anna Szabolcsi
New York University


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