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Polarity items in superlative constructions Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Negation workshop, Utrecht, June 17 20101.

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Presentation on theme: "Polarity items in superlative constructions Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Negation workshop, Utrecht, June 17 20101."— Presentation transcript:

1 Polarity items in superlative constructions Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

2 Structure of the talk 1. Strawson entailment (Von Fintel 1999) 2. Strawson entailing contexts: superlatives, restrictive adverbs (only) 3. Polarity items that appear in superlative constructions 4. Polarity items that don’t appear in superlative constructions 5. Comparison with only 6. Conclusions Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

3 Downward and upward entailment Every pig will be eaten  Every sow will be eaten (downward entailment from the general pig to the less general sow) Some sow will be eaten  Some pig will be eaten (upward entailment) Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

4 Negative Polarity Items Appear in downward entailing contexts (Ladusaw 1979) Familiar problems with this analysis: questions, superlatives, only Proposed solution for superlatives and only: Strawson entailment Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

5 Strawson entailment Jones is the tallest dairy farmer  //  Jones is the tallest farmer Jones is a dairy farmer  Jones is the tallest dairy farmer Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

6 And so Strawson downward entailment is downward entailment, with the added premise that the presuppositions of the conclusion are met And can be viewed as a generalization of regular downward entailment Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

7 Application to only Only Jones likes meat  Only Jones likes beef (valid on the assumption that Jones likes beef, otherwise invalid) Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

8 Polarity items in superlative contexts a. He is the last person who would ever admit any interest in love-stories. b. Angela is the first one who ever did a damn thing for me. c. Emma is the tallest girl to ever win the dance contest. d. That was the best party ever! Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

9 More English examples: in X a. We sailed through what must have been the worst storm in years. b. This meager lunch is easily the best meal I have had in ages. c. That’s the most interesting piece of information I have had in weeks. Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

10 Yet, in the world, alive a.Last night’s game saw our greatest victory yet. b. This was the worst game I have yet had to misfortune to attend. c. It was said in the most unconscious manner in the world. d. I am glad to be alive. e.I am the happiest man alive. f. *There was a man alive. g.There was not a man alive. Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

11 Dutch NPIs that appear in superlatives Ooit ‘ever’ In tijden ‘in ages’ Ter wereld ‘on earth’ Van zijn leven ‘of his life’ Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

12 German Je, jemals ‘ever’ Überhaupt a Sie war das schönste Madchen das ich je gesehen hatte. She was the beautiful-est girl that I ever seen had “She was the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen b. The Beatles war die beste Band die es jemals gegeben hat. The Beatles were the best band that it ever given has “The Beatles are the best band that ever existed” c.Du bist für mich das liebste Mädchen überhaupt You are for me the sweetest girlat-all NB: no counterpart to in ages, in years, in months etc Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

13 French: jamais, de ma vie a.C’est la meilleure omelette que j’aie jamais mangée. That’s the best omelet that I’ve ever eaten ‘That is the best omelet I have ever eaten’ b. C’étaient les plus belles vacances de ma vie. It-was the most beautiful vacation of my life ‘It was the most beautiful vacation of my life’ Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

14 NPIs that shun superlatives In the least *This is the most important document that Fred was in the least excited about. In het minst Dit is het slechtste boek dat ik in het minst geapprecieerd heb Im geringsten Diese Regierung ist die beste die wir jemals/*im geringsten gehabt haben Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

15 anymore a. This is the best film that is shown here anymore. b. Government makes activists sound bad but it is the best chance this country has anymore. From Levinson 2008 Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

16 Corpus data: ever, any, anymore Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

17 Minimizers don’t like superlatives Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

18 Auxiliary need (32)a. You need not worry about a thing. b. *You need (OK: need to) work harder. c. *That’s the most important thing you need do. d. That’s the only thing you need do. e. ?That’s the first thing you need do. f. That’s the last thing you need worry about. g. Need I say more? h. Little else need be done. Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

19 Corpus data Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

20 Remotely a. The students were not remotely interested. b.*The students were remotely interested. c.*She is the best/worst student who is remotely interested. d.She is the only student who is remotely interested. e.She is the first student who is remotely interested. f.That was the last thing that was remotely funny. g.Wake me up if it gets remotely interesting. h.Was it even remotely interesting? Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

21 Corpus data remotely Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

22 Dutch corpus data: ooit, enig, meer Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

23 Dutch minimizers Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

24 Modal auxiliary hoeven Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

25 In de verste verte ‘remotely’ Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

26 German: je/jemals, mehr Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

27 German minizimers don’t like superlatives either Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

28 German brauchen Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

29 Superlatives versus Only Only John ever goes there. John is the least likely person ever to win the race. *Only John has seen her in ages John is the best student I’ve had in ages Only candidates with a PhD need apply *The best candidate who need apply is John The only candidate who need apply is John Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

30 More corpus data Negation workshop, Utrecht, June

31 conclusions Only some NPIs are acceptable in superlative contexts Typically, NPIs in superlative contexts extend the domain of quantification (ever, alive, in years) and are adjuncts Any, enig (nonadjuncts) are possible in superlative contexts, but rare The NPIs licensed by superlatives are not the same as the NPIs licensed by only Strawson entailment fails as a uniform explanation of licensing patterns of NPIs Negation workshop, Utrecht, June


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