Phrasal and Clausal Exceptive-Additive Constructions Crosslinguistically

Katia Vostrikova, UMass


In this talk I will present my dissertation project. In this work I make an observation that in many different languages a word that means except in some contexts, in other contexts gets the reverse meaning and means in addition to. The ambiguity of this sort exists in Russian, Turkish, Hindi, Bulgarian, Persian, English and other languages. This ambiguity can be illustrated by the pair of English examples in (1) and (2).

(1) Every girl besides Anna came (the inference: Anna is a girl who did not come)
(2) Some girl besides Anna came (the inference: Anna is a girl who came)

The meaning this expression gets depends on the other functional elements in a sentence and not on the global context where the sentence is pronounced. In each context only one of the meanings is available. This ambiguity is not predicted by the existing theories of exceptives. I also add novel observations supporting the claim that the syntactic structure the standard semantic theory of exceptives assumes is incorrect. The crosslinguistic study shows that in many languages what follows the word except is not a DP, but is a reduced clause. This fact is challenging for the existing theories because they capture the meaning contribution of exceptives by assuming that they can directly restrict domains of quantifiers such as ‘every girl’. However, clauses do not have the correct semantic type to do this job. I show that in some languages the exceptive-additive ambiguity extends to clausal cases. In this talk I will mainly focus on deriving the ambiguity for phrasal cases. I will present a formal theory that derives the ambiguity via scopal interaction between two elements, one of which is negation. The story I develop accounts for the inferences coming with each of the readings and for their distribution. In principle the exceptive and the additive reading are generated in all cases, but one of them is always either contradictory or tautological, thus is ill formed.