Metalinguistic comparatives in greek and korean: Attitude semantics, expressive content, and negative polarity items


In this paper, we propose an analysis of metalinguistic comparatives (MCs) in Greek and Korean which combines an attitudinal semantics (Giannakidou and Stavrou 2008) with an expressive component. The comparative morpheme supplies the former, and the than-particle supplies the latter. Following Giannakidou and Stavrou, we assume that the MC involves the speaker’s attitude towards the than-proposition— which is deemed less appropriate or preferable— and we discuss novel data from Korean showing a two way distinction between “regular” MCs (signaled by the particle kipota), and negative MCs (signaled by charari “rather” and the particle nuni). We argue that the use of MC than particles, in all variants, brings about an individual’s emotive state, and propose that the morphemes contain expressive indices in the sense of Potts 2007. Indices allow a range from mildly negative to very negative stance, so we capture the fact that expressive particles convey negativity, without positing negation in syntax— a result consistent with the fact that MC-than itself does not license strong NPIs that need negation. We further show that NPI sanctioning in comparatives is very limited, contrary to what is generally thought. Besides NPI-sanctioning, this analysis has two, we believe, important implications. First, it allows the generalization that metalinguistic functions in language are indeed part of the grammar as a combination of attitude semantics and expressivity. Additionally, our use of expressive indices supports Potts’s view of the expressive component as separate, but interacting, with the descriptive content. Finally, we show that the than particle is not vacuous (as is generally believed) but contentful: it is the locus of the interaction between descriptive and expressive meaning in the comparative.



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