This paper contributes to the semantic typology of dependent indefinites, by accounting for the distribution and interpretation of the Romanian indefinite vreun. It is shown that its occurrences are restricted to negative polarity and a subset of modal contexts. More specifically, the study of its behavior in intensional environments reveals that vreun is systematically incompatible with non-epistemic operators, a restriction we capture by proposing a novel empirical generalization (‘the epistemic constraint’). To account for the observed pattern, we adopt the unitary approach to polarity in Chierchia (Logic in Grammar: polarity, free choice and intervention, 2013a; in: Fălăuş (ed.) Alternatives in semantics, 2013b) and derive the properties of vreun from its obligatory association with alternatives. Its distributional restrictions are argued to follow from the interplay between the types of alternatives it activates (scalar and subdomain alternatives), the way these alternatives are factored into meaning (via an independently motivated mechanism of exhaustification) and the lexical semantics of the operators in the context of occurrence. We propose that the epistemic constraint arises from the lexicalization of an inference (anti-total variation) that non-epistemic operators can never satisfy.
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Fălăuş, A. (Partially) Free choice of alternatives. Linguist and Philos 37, 121–173 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-014-9146-8
- Polarity sensitivity
- Epistemic indefinites
- Free choice