, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 111-138,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

On the syntactically complex status of negative indefinites

Abstract

Negative Indefinites (NIs) in languages such as Dutch and German may give rise to split-scope readings. Sentences like German Du must keine Krawatte anziehen (‘you must wear no tie’) have a reading where the modal takes scope in between the negation and the indefinite. In this paper I argue that West Germanic NIs are not negative quantifiers (in the Montegovian sense), but complex syntactic structures that consist of an abstract negative operator and an indefinite that are spelled out as a single word. Split-scope effects result from application of the copy theory of movement. I argue that in split-scope constructions, though they are spelled out as a single word, after Quantifier Raising the negative operator is interpreted in a higher copy and the indefinite in a lower copy of the NI. Furthermore I demonstrate that alternative analyses that take NIs in Dutch and German to be negative quantifiers, n-words, or the result of amalgamation or incorporation processes face problems that the analysis presented in this paper does not encounter.