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LINGUIST List 17.2506

Thu Sep 07 2006

Diss: Semantics/Syntax: Moscati: 'The Scope of Negation'

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        1.    Vincenzo Moscati, The Scope of Negation

Message 1: The Scope of Negation
Date: 07-Sep-2006
From: Vincenzo Moscati <moemit.edu>
Subject: The Scope of Negation

Institution: University of Siena
Program: Ph.D. in Cognitive Science
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Vincenzo Moscati

Dissertation Title: The Scope of Negation

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director:
Luigi Rizzi
Gabriele Usberti

Dissertation Abstract:

The overt realization of sentential negation is subject to a broad
cross-linguistic variation, while the logical representation of the
negative operator seems to be unaffected by those surface variations.
The logical scope of negation can then be unified regardless of language
specific differences by means of an operation reminiscent of QR, labelled
Negation Raising.

This operation is supported by different kinds of evidence based on the
interactions between the negative operator and other kinds of operators. It
is shown that in languages where the Sentential Negative Marker appears in
a position immediately dominating the VP, the negative operator is able to
be interpreted taking wide scope over modal operators which dominate it at
Phonetic Form.

In accordance with a cartographic approach to the clause architecture
(Rizzi 1997), a specific position where the negative operator could be
interpreted is identified within the complementizer's system. This proposal
is supported by the presence of many languages which express sentential
negation through the use of Negative Complementizers. A complete survey of
those languages is given, including, among others, Irish, Italian, English
and Basque. Another argument in favour of the presence of a negative
feature in the CP system is given by the fact that negative sentences can
be object to phrasal selection. Assuming that selection is a local process
which involves the highest position of the embedded clause, negative
sentences can be selected only if a negative feature is allowed to appear
in the topmost node, in conformity with the Clause Typing Hypothesis
(Cheng 1991). The syntactic operation of Negation Raising seems then to be
well supported and also a possible landing site for the logic operator
might be identified within the complementizer's layer.

The operation might be further refined and formalized in Minimalistic
terms, capitalizing on a chain-formation mechanism based on the notion of
Agree. The framework adopted is the one proposed in Pesetsky and Torrego
(2004), which allows to enlarge the scope of the negative operator avoiding
some of the redundancies given by a more traditional feature-coping mechanism.

The system proposed is then tested enlarging the empirical base, and the
discussion is then extended also to negative quantifiers, polarity items
and the so called N-words (Laka 1990). The case of Italian is considered at
length, and new arguments are given in favour of lexical ambiguity of
items such as 'niente' and 'nessuno'. This new account allows to solve some
of the problems (Watanabe 2004) related to ellipsis resolution and
fragment answers with negative quantifiers can be treated in accordance
with Merchant's (2001) proposal.

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