The dynamics of negative concord

Linguistics and Philosophy 45 (1):153-198 (2022)

Abstract

Concord describes a natural language phenomenon in which a single logical meaning is expressed syntactically on multiple lexical items. The canonical example is negative concord, in which multiple negative expressions are used, but a single negation is interpreted. Formally similar phenomena have been observed for the redundant marking of distributivity and definiteness. Inspired by recent dynamic analyses of these latter two phenomena, we extend a similar dynamic analysis to negative concord. We propose that negative concord items introduce a discourse referent, but then test that no discourse referent has been introduced in any assignment. These apparently contradictory requirements are licensed with split scope around negation: introduction occurs below negation; the test appears above it. The analysis successfully predicts that negative concord items must be licensed by a sufficiently local negative operator. We further show that modulation of what is at-issue can account for cases in which NC items themselves carry negative force.

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Jeremy Kuhn
Institut Jean Nicod

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