Nominal negative quantifiers as adjuncts

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Abstract

The topic of the following article is an exceptional use of the negative quantifier nothing and its correspondents in German, Dutch and Italian in which this element turns out to act like a negative polarity item (NPI). The circumstances under which this is the case have very briefly been described in Bayer (2006). Nothing is interpreted like an NPI whenever it is not licensed as an argument. Closer inspection reveals that adjunct status alone is too coarse a distinction, and that nothing must in fact be associated with the structural object position of the verb. The article is organized as follows. Section 1 presents the key observation using English data. Sections 2, 3 and 4 present constructed as well as attested data from English, German and Dutch respectively. Section 5 contains considerations of argument structures which trigger the interpretation of nothing as an NPI. Section 6 presents the core account. Section 7 sketches a diachronic scenario. Section 8 turns to negative concord and expands the account to Italian data. Section 9 contains a conclusion.