Another Look at NPIs in Definite Descriptions: An Experimental Approach

  • Jon GajewskiEmail author
Part of the Language, Cognition, and Mind book series (LCAM, volume 1)


This paper addresses the issue of negative polarity items in the restrictor of definite descriptions. This matter has received little attention in the literature and the discussion of data has been contradictory. The goal of this paper is to review existing approaches to licensing and to offer additional data points to the debate. This paper reports two experiments. The first is a pen and paper judgment survey conducted in a large undergraduate course. The experiment explored subjects’ fine intuitions about NPIs in the restrictors of definite descriptions, as opposed to other environments. The second experiment was conducted online through the Amazon Mechanical Turk website. This experiment simultaneously investigated the influence of grammatical number and genericity/habituality on judgments concerning NPIs in the restrictors of definite descriptions.


Definite descriptions Experimental linguistics Negative polarity items 



This work has benefited greatly from discussion with Elena Guerzoni, Chris Hsieh, Michael Jacques and Yael Sharvit. Michael Jacques also played an instrumental role in assembling and administering Experiment One above. All errors in this work are mine.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ConnecticutMansfieldUSA

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