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Volume 56, Issue 2


Positive polarity indefinites? On how (not) to identify them: An exhaustification-based perspective

Anamaria Fălăuș
  • Corresponding author
  • CNRS, Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes (LLING UMR 6310), Chemin de la Censive du Tertre, BP 81227, 44312 Nantes, France
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Published Online: 2018-02-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0042


This paper discusses a class of so-called “marked” or “modal” indefinites in Romance, (e.g., Romanian un NP oarecare, Italian un NP qualunque, French quelque N), which have been shown to display the locality, shielding and rescuing effects familiar from the study of positive polarity items (PPIs) like someone (e.g., Săvescu-Ciucivara 2007, Oarecare indefinites are not just any indefinites. In Gabriela Alboiu, Andrei Avram, Larisa Avram & Daniela Isac (eds.), Pitar Moș: A building with a view: Papers in honour of Alexandra Cornilescu, 205–225. Bucharest: Editura Universității din București; Jayez and Tovena 2007, Evidentiality and determination. In Atle Grønn (ed.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 12, 271–286. Oslo: Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo; Chierchia 2013, Logic in grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press). Taking Romanian as a case study, I show that in positive contexts, these indefinites exhibit properties (obligatory non-specificity, free choice inferences) that set them apart from someone-PPIs and make them very similar to free choice indefinites. Adopting the framework in Chierchia (2013), we account for the interpretation of indefinites like un NP oarecare by assuming they activate scalar and domain alternatives. The computation of these alternatives is argued to be responsible for the observed interpretation and interaction with negation (as well as other positive polarity features). The proposed account emphasizes the connection between free choice and positive polarity and suggests that positive polarity behavior stems from more than one source.

Keywords: positive polarity indefinites; free choice; alternatives; Romance


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-02-13

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 56, Issue 2, Pages 301–331, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2017-0042.

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