Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 39–81 | Cite as

The landscape of EVEN

Original Paper


This paper explores the role that the scalar properties and presuppositions of even play in creating polarity sensitive even meanings crosslinguistically (henceforth EVEN). I discuss the behavior of three lexically distinct Greek counterparts of even in positive, negative, and subjunctive sentences, and polar questions. These items are shown to be polarity sensitive, and a three-way distinction is posited between a positive polarity (akomi ke), a negative polarity (NPI) (oute), and a ‘flexible scale’even (esto) which does not introduce likelihood, but is associated with scales made salient by the context. The analysis is a refinement of Rooth’s original idea that NP is involved in the interpretation of English even, and establishes further that the “negative” polarity domain of EVEN includes a sensitivity that is not strictly speaking negative (flexible scale esto). The distributional restrictions of EVEN items are shown to follow from distinct presuppositions (positive polarity and flexible scale EVEN), or from their lexical featural specification (NPI EVEN), a result that squares neatly with the fact that ill-formedness is systematic pragmatic deviance in the former case but robust ungrammaticality in the latter. This result supports the by now widely accepted view that polarity dependencies are not of uniform nature, and that we need to distinguish presupposition failures (which are weaker and possibly fixable in some contexts) from cases of ungrammaticality which are robust and cannot be fixed in any context [Giannakidou A. (2001). Linguistics and Philosophy, 24, 659–735].


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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