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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Rachel SZEKELY

The distribution of 'not' in there-sentences: scope and polarity sensitivity

Abstract/Résumé: “Not” has a limited distribution in there-sentences (1), a little-discussed fact. Ward and Birner (1995) suggest this follows from the sentence’s discourse function, i.e., it makes little sense to deny the existence of something while simultaneously introducing it into the discourse; however, there is more to be said. We claim it is not “not”—if you will—which is restricted here, but rather NPs headed by determiners that prefer to, but cannot in this environment, scope above it. Describe the garden scene in front of you. 1) #There are not {several/0/no/few/exactly three/at least three/some} statues in the garden. In neutral contexts , the NPs in (1) scope above “not” in subject and object position (2, 3) and are ungrammatical in “Not-Q” structures, which require “not” to scope over the QP (4). NPs with other determiners (e.g. “many”, “a few”, “enough”, “more/fewer than three”) can scope below “not” in these contexts (5, 6, 7, 8) . 2) Several dirty dishes are not in the sink. (✓several >not, *not>several) 3) John didn’t see several statues in the garden. (✓several >not, *not>several) 4) *Not several {not few/not exactly three/not no/not some} dirty dishes are in the sink. 5) There are not many statues in the garden. 6) Many dirty dishes are not in the sink. (✓not>many) 7) John didn’t see many statues in the garden. (✓not>many) 8) Not many dishes are in the sink. Research indicates that NPs differ in their interpreted scope positions; e.g., that those which are referential or presuppositional inhabit a higher position than other quantifiers and indefinites, above NegP (Beghelli and Stowell 1996, Diesing 1992, among others). There-sentences have an expletive subject and require the postverbal NP to take narrow scope with respect to sentence negation (cf. Milsark 1974, Carlson 1977). Without “not”, the NPs in question are felicitous here, indicating that they are positive polarity items (PPIs), like “some”, unable scope below clausemate negation. Like PPIs, the determiners in (1) can be “rescued” in an NPI-licensing environment (cf. Szabolcsi 2004) (9): 9) If there are not several {some} improvements made before Sunday, the client will go elsewhere. (✓not > several) Finally, this account of NPs in there-sentences generalizes to “Not-Q” structures (4, 8). We propose that the same QPs that in a sentential environment prefer wider scope than negation are ungrammatical below negation in DP .