A crosslinguistic perspective on n-words
Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca Julio de Urquijo 41(2) : 267-284 (2007)
The semantic status of so-called n-words in Negative Concord languages has been under considerable debate. This paper takes a new perspective on this problem by bringing Negative Concord together with two different phenomena that n-words give rise to in non-Negative Concord languages, namely scope splitting in German and distributional restrictions in the Scandinavian languages. I argue that all this taken together reveals the common nature of n-words across languages. These phenomena suggest that n-words should not be analysed as negative quantifiers. Rather, n-words are morpho-syntactic markers of sentential negation. I present a cross-linguistic analysis of n-words and show how the three phenomena discussed follow from it. This analysis is based on the assumption that n-words are semantically non-negative and must be licensed by a (possibly abstract) negation. It is proposed that n-words cross-linguistically are of essentially the same nature and that differences between languages regarding their behaviour are due to parametric variation.