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Scalar Particles as Alternative-Sensitive Expressions

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In this talk, I propose an analysis of scalar particles (‘even’) as alternative-sensitive expressions: such expressions can associate not only with FOC alternatives, but also with C(ontrastive)T(opic) alternatives, when present. I start off by pointing out some differences between exclusive (‘only’) and scalar(additive) particles, which raise problems for the classical restrictive view of scalar and additive particles as run-off-the-mill focus-sensitive expressions (Jackendoff 1972, Jacobs 1983, Rooth 1985, Beaver & Clark 2008). Next, I present a case study of adverbial ‘even’ in English, which shows that the semantic interpretation of this particle is sensitive to both FOC - and CT-information, albeit in different ways. I also show how the less restricted semantic behavior of alternative-sensitive ‘even’ can be accounted for by generalizing the analysis of FOC -‘even’ in Kay (1990). I then present additional empirical evidence from a variety of non-Indoeuropean languages, including Bura (Central Chadic), Ngamo (West Chadic), Nłeʔkepmxcin (Salish), and Vietnamese, which supports the claim that the semantic association behavior of scalar(-additives) expressions differs from that of exclusives in being not sensitive to FOC alone. I conclude with a discussion of some implications of these findings for Wagner’s (2012) recent re-analysis of CTs as indicating a sequence of hierarchically stacked focus operators.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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