Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 323–362 | Cite as

Always and Only: Why Not All Focus-Sensitive Operators Are Alike

  • David Beaver
  • Brady Clark


We discuss focus sensitivity in English, the phenomenon whereby interpretation of some expressions is affected by placement of intonational focus. We concentrate in particular on the interpretation of always and only, both of which are interpreted as universal quantifiers, and both of which are focus sensitive. Using both naturally occurring and constructed data we explore the interaction of these operators with negative polarity items, with presupposition, with prosodically reduced elements, and with syntactic extraction. On the basis of this data we show that while only lexically encodes a dependency on the placement of focus, always does not. Rather, the focus sensitivity of always results from its dependency on context, and from the fact that focus also reflects what is given in the context. We account for this split using an analysis couched in event semantics.


Negative Polarity Universal Quantifier Event Semantic Polarity Item Negative Polarity Item 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aoun, J. and Y.-H. A. Li: 1993, 'Wh-elements in Situ: Syntax or LF?', Linguistic Inquiry 24(2), 199–238.Google Scholar
  2. Atlas, J.: 1993, 'The Importance of Being “Only”: Testing the Neo-Gricean Versus Neo-entailment Paradigms', Journal of Semantics 10, 301–318.Google Scholar
  3. Atlas, J.: 1996, '“Only” Noun Phrases, Pseudo-Negative Generalized Quantifiers, Negative Polarity Items, and Monotonicity', Journal of Semantics 13, 265–328.Google Scholar
  4. Barbiers, S.: 1995, The Syntax of Interpretation. Holland Academic Graphics, The Hague.Google Scholar
  5. Bartels, C.: 1997, 'Acoustic Correlates of “Second Occurrence” Focus: Towards an Experimental Investigation', in H. Kamp and B. Partee (eds.), Context Dependence in the Analysis of Linguistic Meaning (Proceedings of the Workshops in Prague and Bad Teinach), pp. 11–30. University of Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  6. Bayer, J.: 1999, 'Bound Focus, or How Can Association with Focus Be Achieved without Going Semantically Astray', in G. Rebuschi and L. Tuller (eds.), The Grammar of Focus, pp. 55–82. John Benjamins, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  7. Beaver, D.: 1994, 'Accommodating Topics', in R. van der Sandt and P. Bosch (eds.), The Proceedings of the IBM/Journal of Semantics Conference on Focus, Vol. 3, pp. 439–448. IBM Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  8. Beaver, D.: 2001, Presupposition and Assertion in Dynamic Semantics. CSLI Publications, Stanford.Google Scholar
  9. Beaver, D. and B. Clark: 2002a, 'Monotonicity and Focus Sensitivity', in B. Jackson (ed.), Proceedings from SALT 12, pp. 40–58. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.Google Scholar
  10. Beaver, D. and B. Clark: 2002b, 'The Proper Treatments of Focus Sensitivity', in L. Mikkelsen and C. Potts (eds.), Proceedings of WCCFL 21, pp. 15–28. Cascadilla Press, Somerville, Mass.Google Scholar
  11. Beaver, D., B. Clark, E. Flemming, and M. Wolters: 2002, 'Second Occurrence Focus Is Prosodically Marked: Results of a Production Experiment', manuscript, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  12. Bonomi, A. and P. Casalegno: 1993, 'Only: Association with Focus in Event Semantics', Natural Language Semantics 2, 1–45.Google Scholar
  13. Chomsky, N.: 1972, Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar, Chapt. 'Deep Structure, Surface Structure, and Semantic Interpretation', pp. 62–119. Mouton, The Hague.Google Scholar
  14. Cohan, J.: 2000, The Realization and Function of Focus in Spoken English, PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, A.: 1999, 'How Are Alternatives Computed?', Journal of Semantics 16, 43–65.Google Scholar
  16. Diesing, M.: 1992, Indefinites, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  17. Dryer, M. S.: 1994, 'The Pragmatics of Association with Only', paper presented at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the LSA, Boston, Mass.Google Scholar
  18. von Fintel, K.: 1994, 'Restriction on Quantifier Domains', PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  19. von Fintel, K.: 1995, 'A Minimal Theory of Adverbial Quantification', in B. Partee and H. Kamp (eds.), Context Dependence in the Analysis of Linguistic Meaning: Proceedings of the Workshops in Prague and Bad Teinach, pp. 153–193. University of Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  20. von Fintel, K.: 1999, 'NPI Licensing, Strawson-Entailment, and Context Dependency', Journal of Semantics 16, 97–148.Google Scholar
  21. Geurts, B. and R. van der Sandt: 1997, 'Presuppositions and Backgrounds', in P. Dekker and M. Stokhof (eds.), Proceedings of the Eleventh Amsterdam Colloquium, pp. 37–42. University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  22. Haji?ová, E., B. H. Partee, and P. Sgall: 1998, Topic-Focus Articulation, Tripartite Structures, and Semantic Content, Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  23. Hamblin, C.: 1973, 'Questions in Montague Grammar', Foundations of Language 10, 41–53.Google Scholar
  24. Herburger, E.: 2000, What Counts: Focus and Quantification. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  25. Hoeksema, J. and F. Zwarts: 1991, 'Some Remarks on Focus Adverbs', Journal of Semantics 8, 51–70.Google Scholar
  26. Horn, L.: 1996, 'Exclusive Company: Only and the Dynamics of Vertical Inference', Journal of Semantics 13, 1–40.Google Scholar
  27. Jackson, E.: 1995, 'Weak and Strong Polarity Items: Licensing and Intervention', Linguistic Analysis 25, 181–208.Google Scholar
  28. Jacobs, J.: 1983, Fokus und Skalen; Niemeyer, Tübingen.Google Scholar
  29. Kadmon, N.: 2001, Formal Pragmatics: Semantics, Pragmatics, Presupposition and Focus. Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  30. Kadmon, N. and F. Landman: 1993, 'Any', Linguistics and Philosophy 16, 353–422.Google Scholar
  31. Kayne, R.: 1998, 'Overt vs. Covert Movement', Syntax 1(2), 128–191.Google Scholar
  32. Krifka, M.: 1989, 'Nominal Reference, Temporal Constitution, and Quantification in Event Semantics', in R. Bartsch, J. van Benthem, and P. van Emde Boas (eds.), Semantics and Contextual Expressions, pp. 75–115. Foris, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  33. Krifka, M.: 1992a, 'A Framework for Focus-Sensitive Quantification', in C. Barker and D. Dowty (eds.), Proceedings from SALT 2 (Working Papers in Linguistics 40), pp. 215–236. The Ohio State University, Columbus.Google Scholar
  34. Krifka, M.: 1992b, 'A Compositional Semantics for Multiple Focus Constructions', Informationsstruktur und Grammatik (Linguistische Berichte) 4, 17–53.Google Scholar
  35. Krifka, M.: 1995, 'The Semantics and Pragmatics of Polarity Items', Linguistic Analysis 25, 1–49.Google Scholar
  36. Krifka, M.: 1999, 'Additive Particles under Stress', in D. Strolovitch and A. Larson (eds.), Proceedings from SALT 8, pp. 111–128. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.Google Scholar
  37. Ladd, D. R.: 1996, Intonational Phonology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  38. Ladusaw, W.: 1979, 'Polarity Sensitivity as Inherent Scope Relations', PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  39. Linebarger, M. C.: 1987, 'Negative Polarity and Grammatical Representation', Linguistics and Philosophy 10, 325–387.Google Scholar
  40. McCawley, J. D.: 1993, Everything That Linguists Have Always Wanted to Know about Logic But Were Ashamed to Ask (2nd ed.). The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  41. McCawley, J. D.: 1998, The Syntactic Phenomena of English (2nd ed.). The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  42. de Mey, S.: 1991, '“Only” as a Determiner and as a Generalized Quantifier', Journal of Semantics 8(1-2), 91–106.Google Scholar
  43. Nevalainen, T.: 1991, But, Only, Just: Focusing Adverbial Change in Modern English 1500-1900. Société Néophilologique, Helsinki.Google Scholar
  44. Partee, B.: 1991, 'Topic, Focus, and Quantification', in S. Moore and A. Z. Wyner (eds.), Proceedings from SALT 1, pp. 159–187. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.Google Scholar
  45. Partee, B. H.: 1999, 'Focus, Quantification, and Semantics-Pragmatics Issues', in P. Bosch and R. van der Sandt (eds.), Focus: Linguistic, Cognitive, and Computational Perspectives, pp. 213–231. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  46. Pierrehumbert, J. and J. Hirschberg: 1990, 'The Meaning of Intonational Contours in the Interpretation of Discourse', in P. Cohen, J. Morgan, and M. Pollack (eds.), Intentions in Communication, pp. 271–311. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  47. Postal, P. M.: 1998, Three Investigations of Extraction. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  48. Roberts, C.: 1995, 'Domain Restriction in Dynamic Semantics', in E. Bach, E. Jelinek, A. Kratzer, and B. Partee (eds.), Quantification in Natural Languages, pp. 661–700. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  49. Roberts, C.: 1996, 'Information Structure in Discourse: Towards an Integrated Formal Theory of Pragmatics', in Y.-H. Toon and A. Kathol (eds.), OSU Working Papers in Linguistics 49, pp. 91–136. The Ohio State University, Columbus.Google Scholar
  50. Rooth, M.: 1985, 'Association with Focus', PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Published by GLSA, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.Google Scholar
  51. Rooth, M.: 1992, 'A Theory of Focus Interpretation', Natural Language Semantics 1, 75–116.Google Scholar
  52. Rooth, M.: 1996a, 'Focus', in S. Lappin (ed.), The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, pp. 271–297. Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  53. Rooth, M.: 1996b, 'On the Interface Principles for Intonational Focus', in T. Galloway and J. Spence (eds.), Proceedings from SALT 6, pp. 202–226. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.Google Scholar
  54. Rooth, M.: 1999, 'Association with Focus or Association with Presupposition?', in P. Bosch and R. van der Sandt (eds.), Focus: Linguistic, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives, pp. 232–244. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  55. Ross, J. R. and W. E. Cooper: 1979, 'Like Syntax', in W. E. Cooper and E. C. T. Walker (eds.), Sentence Processing: Psycholinguistic Studies Presented to Merrill Garrett, pp. 343–418. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, N.J.Google Scholar
  56. Rothstein, S.: 1995, 'Adverbial Quantification over Events', Natural Language Semantics 3, 1–31.Google Scholar
  57. Schubert, L. K. and F. J. Pelletier: 1987, 'Problems in the Representation of the Logical Form of Generics, Plurals, and Mass Nouns', in E. LePore (ed.), New Directions in Semantics, pp. 385–451. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  58. Schubert, L. K. and F. J. Pelletier: 1989, 'Generically Speaking, Or Using Discourse Representation Theory to Interpret Generics', in G. Chierchia, B. H. Partee, and R. Turner (eds.), Properties, Types and Meaning, Vol. 2, pp. 193–268. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  59. Schwarzschild, R.: 1997, 'Why Some Foci Must Associate', unpublished manuscript, Rutgers University.Google Scholar
  60. Selkirk, E.: 1996, 'Sentence Prosody: Intonation, Stress, and Phrasing', in J. A. Goldsmith (ed.), The Handbook of Phonological Theory, pp. 550–569. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
  61. von Stechow, A.: 1989, 'Focusing and Backgrounding Operators', technical report, Universität Konstanz.Google Scholar
  62. Steedman, M.: 2000, 'Information Structure and the Syntax-Phonology Interface', Linguistic Inquiry 31(4), 649–689.Google Scholar
  63. de Swart, H.: 1991, 'Adverbs of Quantification: A Generalized Quantifier Approach', PhD dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.Google Scholar
  64. Tancredi, C.: 1997, 'Focus and Assocative Operators', unpublished manuscript, Yokohama National University.Google Scholar
  65. Vallduví, E.: 1992, The Informational Component (Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics). Garland, New York.Google Scholar
  66. Winkler, S.: 1997, Focus and Secondary Predication. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.Google Scholar
  67. Zwarts, F.: 1995, 'Nonveridical Contexts', Linguistic Analysis 25, 286–312.Google Scholar
  68. Zwicky, A.: 1982, 'Stranded to and Phonological Phrasing in English', Linguistics 20, 3–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Beaver
    • 1
  • Brady Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA E-mail

Personalised recommendations