Free Choice Items (FCIs), such as French 'n’importe qui,' Greek
'opjosdhipote' and English 'anyone,' are well known for their limited
distributional properties. Most former analyses have been influenced by the
polarity sensitivity tradition, accounting for the distribution of FCIs in
terms of the conditions of licensing and anti-licensing by the semantics of
a given context. Based on French, Greek and English data, this study
proposes that FCIs occur in all contexts as long as their lexical semantics
is compatible with both the semantics and the pragmatics of the context.
Data, mostly extracted from the Free Choice Item Database constructed by
the author, show that the majority of FCIs are grammatical in veridical
contexts. Consequently, the condition of licensing does not apply to FCIs.
FCIs express widening, indiscriminacy, indistinguishability, ignorance,
indifference and low-level. These readings can be pragmatically blocked in
all contexts. Widening, indiscriminacy, indifference and ignorance can be
semantically blocked too. An FCI is ungrammatical if and only if all its
readings are blocked. Consequently, the condition of anti-licensing does
not apply to FCIs either, because it does not take into account the
pragmatics of the context. The distribution of FCIs is, then, entirely free
with the exception of certain cases in which semantic blocking is expected.
This dissertation is of interest to researchers concerned with the study of
FCIs, indefinites, definites and quantifiers, scholars working on more
general issues concerning the semantics-pragmatics interface, and linguists
interested in cross-linguistic and typological studies.