AG 9: Varieties of positive polarity items

Session organizers

Mingya Liu (U Osnabrück) & Gianina Iordăchioaia (U Stuttgart)


In the past, the rich literature on polarity sensitivity mostly focused on negative polarity items (NPIs); positive polarity items (PPIs) were believed to be less impressive in number, productivity, and strength (Horn 1989:157). Recent literature, however, shows that PPIs are empirically just as robust as NPIs and raise theoretically intriguing questions at the interfaces between syntax, semantics and pragmatics. In this workshop, we seek to bring to discussion questions about:

  1. language-specific and cross-linguistic varieties of PPIs and
  2. their formal modeling in different theoretical frameworks.

Positive polarity is known to be highly language-dependent. Speaker-oriented adverbs such as unfortunately/leider act as PPIs in English and German, but their Czech correspondents do not (Junghanns 2006). Similarly, Zeijlstra (2013) argues that, unlike in English, the universal quantifier iedereen ‘everybody’ in Dutch is a PPI. This diversity challenges the plausibility of a unified account of positive polarity. One of the main theoretical debates in this respect concerns the nature of PPIs in relation to the better-studied NPIs. In Szabolcsi (2004), for instance, anti-additivity is as important for PPIs as downward entailment for NPIs. Another concern is the relevance of notions such as scalarity and scope to the modeling of PPIs within and across individual languages. Nilsen (2004) and Sawada (2011) analyze PPI modal adverbs like probably and Japanese minimizer PPIs like chotto/sukoshi ‘a bit’ by means of scales, but others propose alternate non-scalar approaches (e.g., Ernst 2009, Giannakidou 2011, Liu 2012, Iatridou & Zeijlstra 2013, Homer t.a.). While most PPIs can outscope negation, a promising research question relates to PPIs that ban negation altogether (see German *schon nicht / *nicht schon, Löbner 1999) and their modeling by comparison to inversely licensed NPIs (see Korean amwu-to ‘anyone’ in Sells & Kim 2006).

Our workshop will provide the ideal platform for such empirical and theoretical discussions, but also for experimental (see Saddy et al. 2004), diachronic and computational studies towards a better understanding of polarity in natural language.


  14:00 Osamu Sawada (Mie U)  
    Varieties of positive polarity minimizers in Japanese  
  15:00 Makoto Kaneko (Okayama U)  
    Diversity of the source of positive polarity – with special reference to Japanese WH-ka  
  15:30 Chungmin Lee (Seoul National U)  
    Wh-indefinites as PPIs and wh-indefinites plus –to ‘even’ as NPIs: In Korean and other languages  
  16:00 Break  
  16:30 Anamaria Fălăuş (CNRS, Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes)  
    Positive polarity indefinites? On how (not) to identify them  
  17:30 Andreea Nicolae (ZAS Berlin)  
    The positive polarity aspect of weak disjunction  
  18:00 Sumiyo Nishiguchi (Tokyo U of Science)  
    Bipolar items and positive polarity  
  9:00 Vincent Homer (CNRS, UMASS Amherst)  
    Wide-scope taking PPIs  
  10:00 Hedde Zeijlstra (U Göttingen)  
    Self-anti-licensers: the case of universal quantifier PPIs  
  10:30 Manfred Sailer (Goethe U Frankfurt)  
    Doing the devil: an unrescuable PPI  
  11:00 Break  
  11:30 Olga Kellert (U Göttingen)  
    Positive polarity items under clause-mate negation  
  12:00 Elena-Castroviejo & Berit Gehrke (ILLA, CCHS-CSIC & CNRS / Paris Diderot)  
    On extreme degree and positive polarity  
  12:30 Mingya Liu (U Osnabrück)  
    Positive polarity of conventional implicatures  
  11:30 Jack Hoeksema (U Groningen)  
    Positive polarity predicates  
  12:30 Pierre-Yves Modicom (U Paris Sorbonne)  
    Discourse particles as PPIs? Elements from English, German and French  
  13:00 Final discussion  

Deviation from the original schedule

The talk by Zamfirescu was cancelled.