LINGUIST List 32.2668

Tue Aug 17 2021

Books: A Unified Theory of Polarity Sensitivity: Alqassas

Editor for this issue: Billy Dickson <>

Date: 04-Aug-2021
From: Tyler Simnick <>
Subject: A Unified Theory of Polarity Sensitivity: Alqassas
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Title: A Unified Theory of Polarity Sensitivity
Subtitle: Comparative Syntax of Arabic
Series Title: Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax
Published: 2021
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Book URL:

Author: Ahmad Alqassas
Hardback: ISBN: 9780197554883 Pages: 258 Price: U.S. $ 125
Paperback: ISBN: 9780197554890 Pages: 258 Price: U.S. $ 65

Polarity sensitivity is a ubiquitous phenomenon involving expressions such as anybody, nobody, ever, never, somebody and their counterparts in other languages. These expressions belong to different classes such as negative and positive polarity, negative concord, and negative indefinites.

In this book, Ahmad Alqassas proposes a unified approach to the study of this phenomenon that relies on examining the interaction between the various types of polarity sensitivity, with a particular focus on Arabic. Alqassas shows that treating this interaction is fundamental for scrutinizing their licensing conditions. Alqassas draws on data from Standard Arabic and the major regional dialects represented by Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, and Qatari. Through the (micro)comparative approach, Alqassas explains the distributional contrasts with a minimal set of universal syntactic operations such as Merge, Move, and Agree. He also considers a fine-grained inventory of negative formal features for polarity items and their licensors. These simple features paint a complex landscape of polarity and lead to important conclusions about syntactic computation.

By engaging with the rich but under-studied landscape of Arabic polarity sensitivity, this book provides a new perspective on the syntax-semantic interface and develops a unified syntactic analysis for polarity sensitivity. These contributions have important implications for the study of Arabic and for syntactic theory more generally.

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard (arb)

Written In: English (eng)

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Page Updated: 17-Aug-2021