The Evaluability Hypothesis

The syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of polarity item licensing

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Although the field of polarity is well researched, this monograph offers a new take on polarity sensitivity that both challenges and incorporates previous theories. Based primarily on Swedish data, it presents new solutions to long-standing problems, such as the non-complementary distribution of NPIs and PPIs in yes/no-questions and conditionals, long distance licensing by superordinate elements, and the occurrence of polarity items in <i>wh</i>-questions. It is argued that polarity sensitivity can be understood in terms of <i>evaluability</i>. Lacking any immediate predecessor in the literature, evaluability refers to the possibility of accepting or rejecting an utterance as true in a communicative exchange. Intriguingly, the evaluable status of a clause is shown to have syntactic correlates in Swedish, mirrored in the configuration of the C-domain. This book is of interest to scholars studying the interplay between syntax, semantics and pragmatics, particularly those working on negation and polarity.

Subjects: Generative linguistics; Germanic linguistics; Semantics; Syntax; Theoretical linguistics; Pragmatics

  • Affiliations: 1: Lund University

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