The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LingLunch 2/27: Hedde Zeijlstra

Speaker: Hedde Zeijlstra (University of Goettingen) Title: Universal Quantifier NPIs and PPIs: Evidence for a convergent view on the landscape of polarity-sensitive elements Date/Time: Thursday Feb. 27, 12:30-1:45p Location: 32-D461

Most known NPIs and PPIs, such as NPI/PPI quantifiers over individuals (like the any and some-series in English) are existentials/indefinites and never universal quantifiers. No PPI or NPI meaning ‚everybody’ or ‚everything’ has been reported. However, in the domain of modals, the picture seems to be reverse. Most attested NPIs and PPIs are universal quantifiers (cf. Homer t.a., Iatridou & Zeijlstra 2013) . Why have Positive Polarity Items that are universal quantifiers only been attested in the domain of modal auxiliaries and never in the domain of quantifiers over individuals? I first argue that universal quantifier PPIs actually do exist, both in the domain of quantifiers over individuals and in the domain of quantifiers over possible worlds, as is predicted by the Kadman & Landman (1993) – Krifka (1995) – Chierchia (2006. 2013) approach to NPI-hood. However, since the covert exhaustifier that according to Chierchia (2006, 2013) is induced by these PPIs (and responsible for their PPI-hood) can act as an intervener between the PPI and its anti-licenser, universal quantifier PPIs often appear in disguise; their PPI-like behaviour only becomes visible once they morpho-syntactically precede their anti-licenser. A conclusion of this paper is that Dutch iedereen (‚everybody’), opposite to English everybody, is actually a PPI. A second claim made in this paper is that universal quantifier modals that are NPIs are so because they have a lexical requirement that requires some abstract negation to be spelled out elsewhere in the structure (after Postal 2000). The question as to why NPIs that result from this mechanism only surface in the domain of modal auxiliaries and not elsewhere is due to their particular syntactic properties and the way how this lexical/syntactic requirement is acquired. Most discussion on the nature of NPIs and PPIs concerns two questions: (i) why are such elements are sensitive to the polarity of the clauses they appear in; and (ii) what is the range of variation in their licensing contexts? The general conclusion of this talk is that different NPIs/PPIs of different strengths are only superficially similar and that the underlying reasons as to why they are NPIs/PPIs can be quite different: some ill-licensed NPIs/PPIs give rise to contradictory assertions, whereas others violate syntactic or lexical requirements.