The Semantics of Determiners

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NP Semantics June sent

3.2.3 Negative indefinites
We have already mentioned the negative morpheme nici that can accompany an indefinite in examples such as (62):

(62) Nici un student nu a plecat.

Neg a student not has left
No student left.’
Paul nu a invitat nici un student.
P. not has invited Neg a student
‘Paul hasn’t invited any student.’

As already mentioned, the requirement imposed by the presence of nici is that the indefinite DP must occur within the immediate scope of an appropriate negative element (sentential negation or the negative adverb fără ‘without’). This being so, the nici marked indefinites in (62) must be interpreted under the scope of negation, i.e., they are interpreted as existentials within the scope of negation. We therefore add to our set of features that may occur on indefinites the feature [Neg], contributed by the morpheme nici. The details of the interpretation of this feature depend on the details of the interpretation of negation and therefore we will not pursue the matter further here. Note that the relationship between unmarked indefinites and indefinites marked by nici is somewhat more complex than what we have seen before. A subject that is to be interpreted under negation, as in the first sentence in (62) must be marked by nici. Thus, in (63), the indefinite is interpreted outside the scope of the negation; the sentence asserts that there was a student who didn’t leave, rather than that there was no student who left.

(63) Un student nu a plecat.

a student not has left
‘A student didn’t leave.’

In non-subject position, however, an unmarked indefinite may sometimes be interpreted under the scope of negation:

(64) Paul nu a găsit o greşeală în lucrarea mea oricît s- a străduit.

P. not has found a mistake in paper.Def mine however Refl has tried
‘Paul didn’t find a mistake in my paper no matter how hard he tried.’

This sentence my be interpreted as saying that Paul found no mistake or as saying that there was a mistake that Paul did not find. The connection between nici and fără ‘without’ seems even looser in the sense that the alternation between nici indefinites and unmarked ones appears freer in these clauses.

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