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Negative Polarity Items in Croatian: A Case of Syntactic Agreement / Irena Zovko Dinković.

By: Zovko Dinković, Irena.
Material type: ArticleArticleDescription: str. Str. 19-36.Other title: Negative Polarity Items in Croatian: A Case of Syntactic Agreement [Naslov na engleskom:].Subject(s): 6.03 | negation, polarity, agreement eng In: English studies from archives to prospects. Volume 2. Linguistics and applied linguistics Str. 19-36edited by Irena Zovko Dinković, Jelena Mihaljević DjigunovićSummary: Like other Slavic languages Croatian also exhibits a very interesting phenomenon with regard to negative polarity – the existence of two separate sets of polarity items which are in complementary distribution. The first set involves the so-called ni-words, or negative polarity items, which are licensed only in clausemate negation, i.e. in antimorphic contexts, but not in other contexts known as semantically downward entailing (Ladusaw, 1980) or, in Giannakidou's (2002) terms, nonveridical contexts. The second set includes a large number of non-negative indefinites (eg. i-pronouns, bilo-pronouns or –god pronouns), which appear in nonveridical contexts but are banned from clausemate negation. Pereltsvaig (1998) called this the „Bagel problem“ and claimed that it cannot be solved semantically, i.e. by recourse to logical properties of the licensing contexts. Blaszczak (2003), on the other hand, offers a more plausible solution which takes into account the specific semantics of NPIs, in contrast to claims put forward in various purely syntactic approaches (eg. Ladusaw, 1992 ; Progovac, 1994 ; Brown, 1999 ; Zeijlstra 2004, and others), regarding NPIs in languages which exhibit negative concord (NC), such as Croatian, namely that NC is essentially a form of syntactic agreement and that ni-words should be kept apart from typical NPIs which are non-negative. The data from Croatian that we have analyzed, using the Croatian National Corpus, seem to indicate several facts: in Croatian as a language with the so-called strong NC, negative indefinites or ni-words are a separate set of items, which may truly be semantically non-negative, with their negative morphology arising as a result of syntactic agreement with sentential negation. They can occur in preverbal and postverbal position, and actually appear to be licensed under different conditions than other types of non-negative indefinites (either polarity items like i-pronouns or free-choice items like bilo-pronouns), whose choice is pragmatically motivated, depending on the communicative intention of the speaker, and whose meaning is interpreted as context sensitive.
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Like other Slavic languages Croatian also exhibits a very interesting phenomenon with regard to negative polarity – the existence of two separate sets of polarity items which are in complementary distribution. The first set involves the so-called ni-words, or negative polarity items, which are licensed only in clausemate negation, i.e. in antimorphic contexts, but not in other contexts known as semantically downward entailing (Ladusaw, 1980) or, in Giannakidou's (2002) terms, nonveridical contexts. The second set includes a large number of non-negative indefinites (eg. i-pronouns, bilo-pronouns or –god pronouns), which appear in nonveridical contexts but are banned from clausemate negation. Pereltsvaig (1998) called this the „Bagel problem“ and claimed that it cannot be solved semantically, i.e. by recourse to logical properties of the licensing contexts. Blaszczak (2003), on the other hand, offers a more plausible solution which takes into account the specific semantics of NPIs, in contrast to claims put forward in various purely syntactic approaches (eg. Ladusaw, 1992 ; Progovac, 1994 ; Brown, 1999 ; Zeijlstra 2004, and others), regarding NPIs in languages which exhibit negative concord (NC), such as Croatian, namely that NC is essentially a form of syntactic agreement and that ni-words should be kept apart from typical NPIs which are non-negative. The data from Croatian that we have analyzed, using the Croatian National Corpus, seem to indicate several facts: in Croatian as a language with the so-called strong NC, negative indefinites or ni-words are a separate set of items, which may truly be semantically non-negative, with their negative morphology arising as a result of syntactic agreement with sentential negation. They can occur in preverbal and postverbal position, and actually appear to be licensed under different conditions than other types of non-negative indefinites (either polarity items like i-pronouns or free-choice items like bilo-pronouns), whose choice is pragmatically motivated, depending on the communicative intention of the speaker, and whose meaning is interpreted as context sensitive.

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