The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 9/4 - Dorothy Ahn

Speaker: Dorothy Ahn (Harvard)
Title: Semantics of focus particles too and either
Date/Time: Thursday, September 4, 5:30-7p
Location: 34-D461

Additive either is an NPI that appears clause-finally in sentences like (1).

(1) John didn’t leave. Bill didn’t leave either.
(2) *Bill left either.

An adequate account must explain at least two main properties of additive either: a) its restricted distribution and b) the relation between the host – the clause containing either – and the antecedent – the clause preceding the host. Building on Rullmann’s (2003) intuition that additive either is a negative counterpart of focus particle too, I first propose an analysis for too: it introduces an anaphoric variable q that requires an antecedent, and when applied to a proposition p, it asserts a conjunction of q and p. After discussing how this anaphoricity accounts for the relation between the host and the antecedent, I propose that additive either is a completely parallel disjunctive counterpart of too, with its meaning identical to too except that it asserts a disjunction between q and p. The restricted distribution of additive either is predicted to follow simply from the lexical entry of either once we adopt the exhaustification-based theory of NPIs (Chierchia, 2013) and assume thateither has the same domain and scalar alternatives of a regular disjunction.

Chierchia, G. (2013). Logic in Grammar: Polarity, free choice, and intervention.
Rullmann, H. (2003). Additive particles and polarity. Journal of semantics, 20(4)