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Article

Karen De Clercq

Negative markers are not a uniform category. They come in various types and, depending on their type, they take scope over a clause, a phrase, or just a word. Low scope negative markers (LSN) like de-, dis-, un-, iN-, non-, -less are bound morphemes and have therefore been mainly studied within morphology, focusing on the semantics of these markers (contradiction vs. contrariety), issues related to their productivity, and their combinability with certain categories. Wide scope negative markers (WSN), like not are often free morphemes and are usually treated within syntax. Thus there is a morphology-syntax divide when it comes to the treatment of negative markers. However, there are reasons to give up this divide and to uniformly treat negative markers within one module of the grammar. First, from a typological point of view, the bound-free divide of negative markers does not correlate with their scope. For instance, agglutinative languages have WSN markers that are bound morphemes attaching to the verbal base. Second, morphological processes, like suppletion or other types of allomorphy, can be observed in markers that show properties of WSN markers. Third, independent negative particles, like for instance the Dutch free morpheme weinig ‘little, few’, shares stacking properties with other LSN markers like un- and iN-. Fourth, both LSN and WSN markers are subject to the same constraint concerning stacking scopally identical negative markers. Fifth, syncretisms have been found across languages between WSN and LSN, allowing negative markers to be ordered in such a way that no ABA patterns arise, suggesting that the morphology of negative markers reflects the natural scope of negation and that there is a continuum between LSN and WSN markers.

Article

This paper provides an overview of polarity phenomena in human languages. There are three prominent paradigms of polarity items: negative polarity items (NPIs), positive polarity items (PPIs), and free choice items (FCIs). What they all have in common is that they have limited distribution: they cannot occur just anywhere, but only inside the scope of licenser, which is negation and more broadly a nonveridical licenser, PPIs, conversely, must appear outside the scope of negation. The need to be in the scope of a licenser creates a semantic and syntactic dependency, as the polarity item must be c-commanded by the licenser at some syntactic level. Polarity, therefore, is a true interface phenomenon and raises the question of well-formedness that depends on both semantics and syntax. Nonveridical polarity contexts can be negative, but also non-monotonic such as modal contexts, questions, other non-assertive contexts (imperatives, subjunctives), generic and habitual sentences, and disjunction. Some NPIs and FCIs appear freely in these contexts in many languages, and some NPIs prefer negative contexts. Within negative licensers, we make a distinction between classically and minimally negative contexts. There are no NPIs that appear only in minimally negative contexts. The distributions of NPIs and FCIs crosslinguistically can be understood in terms of general patterns, and there are individual differences due largely to the lexical semantic content of the polarity item paradigms. Three general patterns can be identified as possible lexical sources of polarity. The first is the presence of a dependent variable in the polarity item—a property characterizing NPIs and FCIs in many languages, including Greek, Mandarin, and Korean. Secondly, the polarity item may be scalar: English any and FCIs can be scalar, but Greek, Korean, and Mandarin NPIs are not. Finally, it has been proposed that NPIs can be exhaustive, but exhaustivity is hard to precisely identify in a non-stipulative way, and does not characterize all NPIs. NPIs that are not exhaustive tend to be referentially vague, which means that the speaker uses them only if she is unable to identify a specific referent for them.

Article

Haihua Pan and Yuli Feng

Cross-linguistic data can add new insights to the development of semantic theories or even induce the shift of the research paradigm. The major topics in semantic studies such as bare noun denotation, quantification, degree semantics, polarity items, donkey anaphora and binding principles, long-distance reflexives, negation, tense and aspects, eventuality are all discussed by semanticists working on the Chinese language. The issues which are of particular interest include and are not limited to: (i) the denotation of Chinese bare nouns; (ii) categorization and quantificational mapping strategies of Chinese quantifier expressions (i.e., whether the behaviors of Chinese quantifier expressions fit into the dichotomy of A-Quantification and D-quantification); (iii) multiple uses of quantifier expressions (e.g., dou) and their implication on the inter-relation of semantic concepts like distributivity, scalarity, exclusiveness, exhaustivity, maximality, etc.; (iv) the interaction among universal adverbials and that between universal adverbials and various types of noun phrases, which may pose a challenge to the Principle of Compositionality; (v) the semantics of degree expressions in Chinese; (vi) the non-interrogative uses of wh-phrases in Chinese and their influence on the theories of polarity items, free choice items, and epistemic indefinites; (vii) how the concepts of E-type pronouns and D-type pronouns are manifested in the Chinese language and whether such pronoun interpretations correspond to specific sentence types; (viii) what devices Chinese adopts to locate time (i.e., does tense interpretation correspond to certain syntactic projections or it is solely determined by semantic information and pragmatic reasoning); (ix) how the interpretation of Chinese aspect markers can be captured by event structures, possible world semantics, and quantification; (x) how the long-distance binding of Chinese ziji ‘self’ and the blocking effect by first and second person pronouns can be accounted for by the existing theories of beliefs, attitude reports, and logophoricity; (xi) the distribution of various negation markers and their correspondence to the semantic properties of predicates with which they are combined; and (xii) whether Chinese topic-comment structures are constrained by both semantic and pragmatic factors or syntactic factors only.

Article

Negation in Romance offers a wide array of cross-linguistic variation. For what concerns sentential negation, three main strategies are employed depending on the position of the negative marker with respect to the finite verb: some varieties (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) adopt a preverbal particle, others (e.g., Gallo-Italic varieties) a postverbal one, and some others (e.g., French) a combination of both. Negation can also surface in the left-most clausal positions, generally carrying an additional meaning expressed by emphatic polarity particles. The diverse options available in contemporary varieties stemmed from their common ancestor, Latin, through a sequence of (potentially) cyclical grammatical changes captured by the Jespersen’s cycle. A further dimension of variation concerns negative indefinites (N-words) and their interpretation when combined with negation, resulting in strict and nonstrict negative concord depending on the availability of double negation readings in both pre- and postverbal positions or only postverbally. In addition, the evolution of indefinites from Latin to modern Romance languages constitutes its own quantifier’s cycle. This cycle classifies the continuous diachronic changes that have occurred through the centuries into a sequence of discrete steps, imposing constraints on the transition of indefinites from one stage to the next. Despite the great variability in the ways negation is expressed, its interpretive properties are not fully constrained by superficial variations. Logical scope in particular is not bound to the syntactic position where negation surfaces and inverse scope readings are generally possible.

Article

Theme  

Eva Hajičová

In the linguistic literature, the term theme has several interpretations, one of which relates to discourse analysis and two others to sentence structure. In a more general (or global) sense, one may speak about the theme or topic (or topics) of a text (or discourse), that is, to analyze relations going beyond the sentence boundary and try to identify some characteristic subject(s) for the text (discourse) as a whole. This analysis is mostly a matter of the domain of information retrieval and only partially takes into account linguistically based considerations. The main linguistically based usage of the term theme concerns relations within the sentence. Theme is understood to be one of the (syntactico-) semantic relations and is used as the label of one of the arguments of the verb; the whole network of these relations is called thematic relations or roles (or, in the terminology of Chomskyan generative theory, theta roles and theta grids). Alternatively, from the point of view of the communicative function of the language reflected in the information structure of the sentence, the theme (or topic) of a sentence is distinguished from the rest of it (rheme, or focus, as the case may be) and attention is paid to the semantic consequences of the dichotomy (especially in relation to presuppositions and negation) and its realization (morphological, syntactic, prosodic) in the surface shape of the sentence. In some approaches to morphosyntactic analysis the term theme is also used referring to the part of the word to which inflections are added, especially composed of the root and an added vowel.

Article

The Romance languages, despite their overall similarity, display interesting internal diversity which can be captured only very partially by looking at the six major standard languages, as typological databases often do. This diversity spans over all the levels of linguistic analysis, from phonology to morphology and syntax. Rather than making a long list of features, with no space to go much beyond their mere mention, the article focusses on just four main areas in a little more detail, trying to develop, if minimally, a discussion on their theoretical and methodological import. The comparison with the full-world typological background given by the WALS Online shows that the differences within Romance may reach the level of general typological relevance. While this is probably not the case in their rather mainstream segmental phonology, it surely holds regarding nominal pluralization and the syntax of negation, which are both areas where the Romance languages have often distanced themselves quite significantly from their common ancestor, Latin. The morphological marking of nominal plural displays four values out of the seven recorded in WALS, adding a further one unattested there, namely subtraction; the negation strategies, although uniformly particle-like, cover all the five values found in WALS concerning linear order. Finally, Romance languages suggest several intriguing issues related with head-marking and dependent-marking constructions, again innovating against the substantially dependent-marking uniformity characteristic of Latin.

Article

Gemma Rigau and Manuel Pérez Saldanya

Catalan is a Romance language closely related to Gallo-Romance languages. However, contact with Spanish since the 15th century has led it to adopt various linguistic features that are closer to those seen in Ibero-Romance languages. Catalan exhibits five broad dialects: Central, Northern, and Balearic, which pertain to the Eastern dialect block, and Northwestern and Valencian, which make up the Western. This article deals with the most salient morphosyntactic properties of Catalan and covers diachronic and diatopic variations. It also offers information about diastratic or sociolinguistic variations, namely standard and non-standard variations. Among the most characteristic morphosyntactic features are the following: 1. Catalan is the only Romance language that exhibits a periphrastic past tense expressed by means of the verb anar ‘go’ + infinitive (Ahir vas cantar ‘Yesterday you sang’). This periphrastic past coexists with a simple past (Ahir cantares ‘Yesterday you sang’). However, Catalan does not have a periphrastic future built with the movement verb go. 2. Demonstratives show a two-term system in most Catalan dialects: aquí ‘here’ (proximal) and allà or allí ‘there’ (distal); but in Valencian and some Northwestern dialects, there is a three-term system. In contrast with other languages that have a two-term system, Catalan uses the proximal demonstrative to express proximity either to the speaker or to the addressee (Aquí on jo soc ‘Here where I am’, Aquí on tu ets ‘There where you are’). 3. Catalan has a complex system of clitic pronouns (or weak object pronouns) which may vary in form according to the point of contact with the verb, proclitically or enclitically; e.g., the singular masculine accusative clitic can have two syllabic forms (el and lo) and an asyllabic one (l’ or ‘l): El saludo ‘I am greeting him’, Puc saludar-lo ‘I can greet him’, L’havies saludat ‘You had greeted him’, Saluda’l ‘Greet him’. 4. Existential constructions may contain the predicate haver-hi ‘there be’, consisting of the locative clitic hi and the verb haver ‘have’ (Hi ha tres estudiants ‘There are three students’) and the copulative verb ser ‘be’ (Tres estudiants ja són aquí ‘Three students are already here’) or other verbs whose behavior can be close to an unaccusative verb when preceded by the clitic hi (Aquí hi treballen forners ‘There are some bakers working here’). 5. The negative polarity adverb no ‘not’ may be reinforced by the adverbs pas or cap in some dialects and can co-occur with negative polarity items (ningú ‘anybody/nobody’, res ‘anything/nothing’, mai ‘never’, etc.). Negative polarity items exhibit negative agreement (No hi ha mai ningú ‘Nobody is ever here’), but they may express positive meaning in some non-declarative syntactic contexts (Si mai vens, truca’m ‘If you ever come, call me’). 6. Other distinguishing items are the interrogative and confirmative particles, the pronominal forms of address, and the personal articles.

Article

Terttu Nevalainen

In the Early Modern English period (1500–1700), steps were taken toward Standard English, and this was also the time when Shakespeare wrote, but these perspectives are only part of the bigger picture. This chapter looks at Early Modern English as a variable and changing language not unlike English today. Standardization is found particularly in spelling, and new vocabulary was created as a result of the spread of English into various professional and occupational specializations. New research using digital corpora, dictionaries, and databases reveals the gradual nature of these processes. Ongoing developments were no less gradual in pronunciation, with processes such as the Great Vowel Shift, or in grammar, where many changes resulted in new means of expression and greater transparency. Word order was also subject to gradual change, becoming more fixed over time.

Article

Veneeta Dayal and Deepak Alok

Natural language allows questioning into embedded clauses. One strategy for doing so involves structures like the following: [CP-1 whi [TP DP V [CP-2 … ti …]]], where a wh-phrase that thematically belongs to the embedded clause appears in the matrix scope position. A possible answer to such a question must specify values for the fronted wh-phrase. This is the extraction strategy seen in languages like English. An alternative strategy involves a structure in which there is a distinct wh-phrase in the matrix clause. It is manifested in two types of structures. One is a close analog of extraction, but for the extra wh-phrase: [CP-1 whi [TP DP V [CP-2 whj [TP…t­j­…]]]]. The other simply juxtaposes two questions, rather than syntactically subordinating the second one: [CP-3 [CP-1 whi [TP…]] [CP-2 whj [TP…]]]. In both versions of the second strategy, the wh-phrase in CP-1 is invariant, typically corresponding to the wh-phrase used to question propositional arguments. There is no restriction on the type or number of wh-phrases in CP-2. Possible answers must specify values for all the wh-phrases in CP-2. This strategy is variously known as scope marking, partial wh movement or expletive wh questions. Both strategies can occur in the same language. German, for example, instantiates all three possibilities: extraction, subordinated, as well as sequential scope marking. The scope marking strategy is also manifested in in-situ languages. Scope marking has been subjected to 30 years of research and much is known at this time about its syntactic and semantic properties. Its pragmatics properties, however, are relatively under-studied. The acquisition of scope marking, in relation to extraction, is another area of ongoing research. One of the reasons why scope marking has intrigued linguists is because it seems to defy central tenets about the nature of wh scope taking. For example, it presents an apparent mismatch between the number of wh expressions in the question and the number of expressions whose values are specified in the answer. It poses a challenge for our understanding of how syntactic structure feeds semantic interpretation and how alternative strategies with similar functions relate to each other.

Article

Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra

The relation between the morphological form of a pronoun and its semantic function is not always transparent, and syncretism abounds in natural languages. In a language like English, for instance, three types of indefinite pronouns can be identified, often grouped in series: the some-series, the any-series, and the no-series. However, this does not mean that there are also three semantic functions for indefinite pronouns. Haspelmath (1997), in fact distinguishes nine functions. Closer inspection shows that these nine functions must be reduced to four main functions of indefinites, each with a number of subfunctions: (i) Negative Polarity Items; (ii) Free-Choice Items; (iii) negative indefinites; and (iv) positive or existential indefinites. These functions and subfunctions can be morphologically realized differently across languages, but don’t have to. In English, functions (i) and (ii), unlike (iii) and (iv), may morphologically group together, both expressed by the any-series. Where morphological correspondences between the kinds of functions that indefinites may express call for a classification, such classifications turn out to be semantically well motivated too. Similar observations can be made for definite pronouns, where it turns out that various functions, such as the first person inclusive/exclusive distinction or dual number, are sometimes, but not always morphologically distinguished, showing that these may be subfunctions of higher, more general functions. The question as to how to demarcate the landscape of indefinite and definite pronouns thus does not depend on semantic differences alone: Morphological differences are at least as much telling. The interplay between morphological and semantic properties can provide serious answers to how to define indefinites and the various forms and functions that these may take on.