Conjunction Meets Negation: A Study in Cross‐linguistic Variation

Journal of Semantics 21 (3):219-249 (2004)
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Abstract

The central topic of this inquiry is a cross-linguistic contrast in the interaction of conjunction and negation. In Hungarian (Russian, Serbian, Italian, Japanese), in contrast to English (German), negated definite conjunctions are naturally and exclusively interpreted as `neither’. It is proposed that Hungarian-type languages conjunctions simply replicate the behavior of plurals, their closest semantic relatives. More puzzling is why English-type languages present a different range of interpretations. By teasing out finer distinctions in focus on connectives, syntactic structure, and context, the paper tracks down missing readings and argues that it is eventually not necessary to postulate a radical cross-linguistic semantic difference. In the course of making that argument it is observed that negated conjunctions on the `neither’ reading carry the expectation that the predicate hold of both conjuncts. The paper investigates several hypotheses concerning the source of this expectation.

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Anna Szabolcsi
New York University

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