An approach to polarity sensitivity and negative concord by lexical underspecification
This paper presents a dynamic semantic approach to the licensing of Polarity Sensitive Items (PSIs) and n-words of Negative Concord. We propose that PSIs are unified by the semantic scale property, which is responsible for their sensitivity to the context; we develop a semantic licensing analysis based on Fauconnier's (1975) scales and Ladusaw's (1979) notion of entailment. The first part of the paper concludes with a formalization of semantic licensing in the sense of Ladusaw (1979) within HPSG (see, e.g., Pollard & Sag (1994)) which allows for a uniform treatment of the licensing of PSIs and n-words of Negative Concord and accounts for the disambiguating nature of PSIs in scopally ambiguous sentences.
The second part of the paper is concerned with the limitations of semantic licensing, which, we claim, needs to be sensitive to the context. We present the discussions of, e.g., Heim (1984) and Israel (1996) with respect to the importance of the context in particular licensing constellations, and then turn to linearity constraints on licensing. We present data from German which may not be accounted for by linearity constraints and sketch an analysis for this data which supports the necessity of context-sensitive semantic licensing.