Licensing of Negative Polarity Items in Tigrinya

Angela Cao, Maddy Liotta, and Dr. Yun Kim, Department of Linguistics, Emory University, 201 Dowman Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322

In this paper, we will discuss the syntactic constraints on the licensing of negative polarity items in Tigrinya, both locally and across clause boundaries. An example would be the occurrence of ebba (analogous to English’s “on the contrary”) in question-answer pairs, during which a responder rejects the questioner’s claim and uses the aforementioned NPI to emphasize his/her disagreement. Another example includes NPI wala Hanti, which is analogous to English’s “any.” Through data drawn using distance elicitation sessions with a native speaker of the under-documented Semitic language, we explore the different types of locality conditions in which negative polarity items appear, an NPI’s relationship with its most basic licensor (negation), why these contexts logically give rise to these items, edge cases during which we would expect an NPI but none arise, as well as how these NPIs perform when transferred to other contexts. For example, we observe that even if an NPI appears to be external to a relative clause, it can be licensed by negation within the relative clause. With these observations, we consider various hypotheses for why these licensing contexts justify usage of an NPI (such as how usage of an NPI may increase the utility of an utterance) and how these traits identify Tigrinya as uniquely Semitic. Finally, we conclude by taking a broad view of negative polarity items in Tigrinya by establishing distinguishing traits of categories in which speakers would choose to use a negative polarity utterance over an affirmative polarity utterance (or vice versa) in terms of utility, social constraints, and syntactic regularity. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Angela Cao, Maddy Liotta

Institution: Emory University

Type: Poster

Subject: Linguistics & World Languages

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 5548