A CROSS-LINGUISTIC ACCOUNT OF POLARITY

Open Access
Author:
Amory, Michael Daymon
Area of Honors:
French and Francophone Studies
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Lisa Reed, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa A Reed, Thesis Supervisor
  • J. Marc Authier, Faculty Reader
  • Lisa Reed, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • polarity
  • romance
  • NPI
  • PPI
  • negative concord
Abstract:
Polarity is a term that refers to the affirmative versus negative distinction exhibited by the following pair of sentences: Cindy likes cats (affirmative) and Cindy does not like cats (negative). Linguists use the term polarity item to refer to the many words, phrases, and idioms whose occurrence has long been known to be restricted (or licensed) in some way by the polarity of the sentences in which they appear. That is, negative polarity items (NPIs) are limited to negative sentences and affirmative/positive polarity items (PPIs) are limited to affirmative ones. With this in mind, I will provide various approaches to polarity, starting from the earliest and moving to the most recent. Some research questions after viewing the introductory data on the distributional characteristics of polarity that will be a recurring theme throughout the thesis: First, given the present account of the distribution of negative quantifiers that exists in the literature, namely Progovac (2005), what are the features of Romance n-words that account for their distribution? Or, put differently, how do we implement concord into modern syntactic theory? Progovac’s account cannot simply be applied “as is”. She proposes that items that encode semantic negation, like English negative quantifiers, have an [I –neg] feature, while those that do not (English NPIs) have an [U –neg] one.