Event Detail

Mon Nov 16, 2015
370 Dwinelle Hall, 3–5 PM
Linguistics Colloquium
Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard University)
Factivity Meets Polarity

The empirical focus of my presentation is how Italian and English factives differ in the way they relate to Negative Polarity Items (NPIs). Certain emotive factives are known to license NPIs in English (cf. a); their Italian counterparts, however, do not (cf. b).

(a) I am sorry I ever met you

(b) * Mi dispiace di averti mai incontrato
— (I) self am-sorry of have-you ever met
— ‘I am sorry that I ever met you’

A second related difference has to do with the following contrast:

( c) Mary hadn’t realized that John had ever been to Paris

(d) *Maria non aveva realizzato che Gianni era mai stato a Parigi

In ( c) we see that negation can license an NPI across a factive (realize) in English; but in Italian this seems to be systematically impossible. Why do Italian vs. English factives differ in just these ways, while being otherwise quite similar (in e.g., their lexical meaning, their behavior with respect to extraction, etc.)? What is the parameter involved?

In addressing these questions I will build on the idea that a host of grammatical phenomena (polarity being a prime case) are rooted in our ‘spontaneous logicality’. I will articulate and defend the (prima facie quite implausible) claim that some constructions perceived as ‘ungrammatical’ owe their status to the fact that they are logical contradictions.