Conjunction meets negation: A study in cross-linguistic variation

Anna Szabolcsi, Bill Haddican

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The central topic of this inquiry is a cross-linguistic contrast in the interaction of conjunction and negation. In Hungarian (Russian, Serbian, Italian, Japanese), in contrast to English (German), negated definite conjunctions are naturally and exclusively interpreted as ʼneither’. It is proposed that in Hungarian-type languages conjunctions simply replicate the behaviour of plurals, their closest semantic relatives. The ʼneither’ reading is due to the homogeneity presupposition accompanying distributive prediction over pluralities More puzzling is why English-type languages present a different range of interpretations. By teasing out finer distinctions in focus on connectives, syntactic structure, and context, the paper tracks down missing readings and argues that it is eventually not necessary to postulate a radical cross-linguistic semantic difference. In the course of making that argument it is observed that negated conjunctions on the ʼneither’ reading carry the expectation that the predicate hold of both conjuncts. The paper investigates several hypotheses concerning the source of this expectation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)219-249
    Number of pages31
    JournalJournal of Semantics
    Volume21
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Aug 2004

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Artificial Intelligence

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