Interpreting argumental n-words as answers to negative wh-questions

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Abstract

© 2015 Elsevier B.V. This paper aims to provide an explanation of the lexical characterisation and final semantic interpretation associated with isolated argumental n-words in Question-Answer pairs in Negative Concord languages, namely Catalan and Spanish. We argue that there are two competing lexical variants of n-words in these languages: a polarity variant and a negative existential quantifier variant. Accessibility to these two lexical characterizations of n-words is correlated with one of the two possible final interpretations of isolated argumental n-words when used as fragment answers to negative wh-questions. Following a Structured Meaning approach to the semantics of Question-Answer pairs, we present a new analysis of n-words as focus constituents with respect to background wh-questions according to which a final single negation reading can only be inferred from n-words conceived as indefinite polarity items, whereas a Double Negation reading is inferred from negative quantifiers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-59
JournalLingua
Volume177
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Keywords

  • Argumental n-words
  • Catalan
  • Indefinite negative quantifiers
  • Indefinite polarity items
  • Question–Answer pairs
  • Spanish

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