NPI licensing, Strawson entailment, and context dependency
Journal of Semantics
The Fauconnier-Ladusaw analysis of negative polarity licensing (that NPIs are licensed in the scope of downward entailing operators) continues to be the benchmark theory of negative polarity. In this paper, I consider some of the moves that are needed to maintain its basic intuition in some recalcitrant arenas: negative polarity licensing by only, adversatives, superlatives, and conditionals. We will see that one has to (i) use a notion of entailment that I call Strawson Entailment, which deals
... with presuppositions in a particular way, and (ii) prohibit (even natural) context change during an inference. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how to justify these constraints and to see in detail how the semantics of the problematic constructions has to work in order for these moves to successfully rescue the Fauconnier-Ladusaw analysis. I will first show the two assumptions at work in the analysis of NPI licensing by only and adversatives (building on proposals by Kadmon & Landman). I then turn to NPI licensing in the antecedent of conditionals. The standard Stalnaker-Lewis semantics for conditionals-ifp, q is true iff q is true in the closest p-woild(s)-might make one suspect that once one has an explanation for NPI licensing by superlatives, that would immediately deliver an explanation for NPI licensing in conditionals. But it turns out that the particular analysis that seems appropriate for NPI licensing by superlatives cannot plausibly carry over to conditionals. Instead, one does better by appealing to an alternative analysis of conditionals, one that I have elsewhere argued for on independent grounds. 5 This is not just a disappointment for Atlas' theory, but also one for my wallet I could really have used that $$00 Atlas Prize. 6 Note that the fact that no licenses NPIs and is pseudo-anti-additive is not a triumph for the proposal under discussion. Presumably the fact that no is indeed anti-additive and not just pseudoanti-additive is what explains its licensing behavior. What's under debate is whether mere pseudoanti-additivity has anything to do with NPI licensing. first presented informally to the MIT LF-Reading Group, after which Danny Fox asked a question which led to the material in the final subsection of section 34. The paper was then presented at the second annual conference on Sinn und Bedtutung in Berlin (December l 99l)-I distinctly recall helpful and encouraging remarks from Graham Katz, Rob van Rooy, and Arnim von Stechow, which they may, of course, deny in retrospect Thanks also to an anonymous reviewer for His Journal of Semantics. I wish to dedicate this paper to the memory of Jim McCawley.