Neg-Raising Modals and Scaleless Implicatures
Paloma Jeretič
September 2021

This dissertation explores the phenomenon of 'scaleless implicatures', which are semantic enrichments from existential quantificational meanings to universal ones. Scaleless implicatures are like scalar implicatures in that they are sensitive to the polarity of the environment and the QUD in the context; they distinguish themselves from them in that they are triggered by expressions that lack a scalar alternative.
I present a cross-linguistic study of 14 neg-raising root modals, and claim that their neg-raising behavior is due to their potential to trigger scaleless implicatures. They come in several types. First, scaleless implicature triggers can come in two quantificational forces. There are existential scaleless implicature triggers that can strengthen to universal quantification. There are also universal scaleless implicature triggers that, when negated, have the expression strengthened to the equivalent of a wide scope universal. Second, scaleless implicature triggers can strengthen obligatorily or optionally. I claim that this behavior depends on whether an appropriate scalemate is present in the lexicon of the language. I show how the typology and distribution of these phenomena can naturally be analyzed in existing grammatical theories of scalar implicatures (Fox, 2007; Bar-Lev and Fox, 2020).
Based on the data from the languages observed, I propose a new theory of scalar alternatives. The behavior of scaleless implicature triggers depends on the presence of 'lexical scalar alternatives', which originate at the level of the lexical item and are highly sensitive to the morphosyntax and semantics of the item and its scalemate. However, lexical scalar alternatives cannot explain all instances of scalar implicatures, thus revealing the existence of 'clausal scalar alternatives', derived at the level of the clause, consequently less sensitive to the morphosyntax and semantic restrictions of the scalemates.
I then discuss how scaleless implicatures can be blocked when they license actuality entailments, how this provides empirical support for a unification of all observed scaleless implicature triggers, and how this behavior is predicted by the theory.
Finally, I motivate a crucial assumption underlying the scaleless implicature analysis of neg-raising modals. Namely, that they originate below negation, and cannot undergo any interpretable syntactic movement. This effectively argues against previous analyses of the behavior of neg-raising modals as raising above negation due to their positive polarity sensitivity (Homer, 2011, 2015; Iatridou and Zeijlstra, 2013).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006390
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: New York University
keywords: scalar implicature, scaleless implicature, negation, neg-raising, modals, polarity, semantics, pragmatics, semantics-pragmatics interface
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