Negative Quantification and Existential Sentences

  • Lucia M. Tovena
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 84)


This paper gives an insight into a productive type of construction in Italian that can be broadly characterised by the absence of verb, the presence of an initial n-word—from a surfacy point of view, and is interpreted as a full sentence, more precisely as a negative existential sentence. It is proposed that the sentential interpretation is possible because the negative expression requires tripartite structure at some abstract level of representation. The negated existential type of sentence is linked to the intersective relation imposed by the n-word and the constraint of empty intersection. The use of different n-words is interpreted as an overt marking of different perspectives on the situation described and result in different ways of satisfying conservativity.


Mass Noun Countable Noun Small Clause Bare Noun Existential Sentence 
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. Atlas, J. D. (1988). What are negative existence statements about? Linguistics and Philosophy 11, 373–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Babby, L. H. (1980). Existential Sentences and Negation in Russian. Ann Arbor: Karoma Publ.Google Scholar
  3. Bende-Farkas, A. and H. Kamp (2001). Indefinites and binding: from specificity to incorporation. Notes 13th ESSLLI.Google Scholar
  4. Borschev, V. and B. H. Partee (1998). Formal and lexical semantics and the genitive in negated existential sentences in Russian. In Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics 6, pp. 75–96.Google Scholar
  5. Borschev, V. and B. H. Partee (2002). The Russian genitive of negation in existential sentences: the role of theme–rheme structure reconsidered. In E. Hajic̀ová, P. Sgall, J. Hana, and T. Hoskovec (Eds.), Travaux du cercle linguistique de Prague (nouvelle série), pp. 185–250. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  6. Cartwright, R. (1960). Negative existentials. The Journal of Philosophy LVII, 629–639.Google Scholar
  7. Chierchia, G. (1998). Plurality of mass nouns and the notion of ‘semantic parameter’. In S. Rothstein (Ed.), Events and Grammar, pp. 53–103. Kluwer.Google Scholar
  8. Chung, S. and W. Ladusaw (2003). Restriction and Saturation. Cambridge MS: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Farkas, D. and H. de Swart (2003). The Semantics of Incorporation. Stanford CA: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, J. D. and I. Sag (1982). Referential and quantificational indefinites. Linguistics and Philosophy 5, 355–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heldner, C. (1992). Sur la quantification négative. Le français moderne94, 80–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Huddleston, R. and G. Pullum (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Keenan, E. and J. Stavi (1986). A semantic characterization of natural language determiners. Linguistics and Philosophy9, 253–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Keenan, E. L. (1987). A semantics definition of ‘indefinite NP’. In E. J. Reuland and A. G. ter Meulen (Eds.), The Representation of (In)definiteness, pp. 286–317. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Keenan, E. L. (1996). The semantics of determiners. In S. Lappin (Ed.), The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory, pp. 41–63. Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Keenan, E. L. (2003). The definiteness effect: semantics or pragmatics? Natural Language Semantics 11, 187–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kim, Y. (2001). Information articulation and truth conditions of existential sentences. In C. Condoravdi and G. Renardel de Lavalette (Eds.), Logical Perspectives on Language and Information, pp. 107–130. Stanford CA: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  18. Manzotti, E. (1991). La negazione. In L. Renzi and G. Salvi (Eds.), Grande grammatica italiana di consultazione, Volume 2, Chapter 5, pp. 245–318. Bologna: il Mulino.Google Scholar
  19. Milsark, G. L. (1974). Existential Sentences in English. published by Garland Publishing Inc., 1979, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  20. Milsark, G. L. (1977). Toward an explanation of certain peculiarities in the existential construction in English. Linguistic Analysis3, 1–30.Google Scholar
  21. Mithun, M. (1984). The evolution of noun incorporation. Language60, 847–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Partee, B. H. (1989). Many quantifiers. In Proceedings of ESCOL ’88, Volume 5, pp. 383–402.Google Scholar
  23. Partee, B. H. (1991). Topic, focus and quantification. In Proceedings of SALT, Volume 1, pp. 159–187.Google Scholar
  24. Partee, B. H. (1995). Quantificational structures and compositionality. In E. Bach, E. Jelinek, A. Kratzer, and B. Partee (Eds.), Quantification in Natural Languages, pp. 541–601. Kluwer.Google Scholar
  25. Perlmutter, D. (1983). Personal vs impersonal constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1, 141–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Reuland, E. J. and A. G. ter Meulen (Eds.) (1987). The Representation of (In)definiteness. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Stalnaker, R. (1998). On the representation of context. Journal of Logic, Language and Information7(1), 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stowell, T. (1983). Subjects across categories. The Linguistic Review2, 285–312.Google Scholar
  29. Tovena, L. M. (1998). The Fine Structure of Polarity Sensitivity. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  30. Tovena, L. M. (2001). Between mass and count. WCCFL 20, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  31. Tovena, L. M. (2003a). Determiners and weakly discretised domains. In J. Quer, J. Schroten, P. Sleeman, and E. Verheugd (Eds.), Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001, pp. 333–348. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  32. Tovena, L. M. (2003b). Distributional restrictions on negative determiners. In K. Jaszczolt and K. Turner (Eds.), Meaning through Language Contrast, pp. 3–28. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
  33. Tovena, L. M. (2003c). Steps in the modelling of negative quantifiers. talk delivered at Journées de sémantique et modélisation 1, Paris.Google Scholar
  34. Tovena, L. M. (2004). A propos de la négation dans les phrases averbales. Verbum26:3, 299–309.Google Scholar
  35. van Geenhoven, V. (1998). Semantics Incorporation and Indefinite Descriptions. Stanford CA: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  36. Ward, G. and B. Birner (1995). Definiteness and the English existential. Language71, 722–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Westerståhl, D. (1985). Determiners and context sets. In J. van Benthem and A. ter Meulen (Eds.), Generalized Quantifiers in Natural Language, pp. 45–71. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Williams, E. (1975). Small clauses in English. In Kimball (Ed.), Syntax and Semantics, Volume 4, pp. 249–273. Academic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Williams, E. (1984). There-insertion. Linguistic Inquiry 15, 131–153.Google Scholar
  40. Zwarts, F. (1983). Determiners: A relational perspective. In A. ter Meulen (Ed.), Studies in Model-Theoretic Semantics, pp. 44–71. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucia M. Tovena

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations