Lambda-abstraction and indefinite pronouns in narrow and broad focus Cover Image
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Lambda-abstrakce a neurčitá zájmena v úzkém a širokém ohnisku
Lambda-abstraction and indefinite pronouns in narrow and broad focus

Author(s): Radek Šimík
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Ústav pro jazyk český Akademie věd České republiky
Keywords: wh-words; indefinite pronouns; free choice and negative polarity phenomenon; narrow and broad focus; lambda-abstraction; type-theory

Summary/Abstract: Czech indefinite pronouns like někdo ‘someone’ (unlike indefinite nouns like peníze ‘money’) cannot be pronounced in their base (postverbal) position unless they are interpreted as narrowly focused. Broad focus (focus on the whole verb phrase) is only facilitated with indefinite pronouns in a derived (preverbal) position. The analysis in this paper makes use of the fact that Czech indefinite pronouns are morphologically related to wh-words. It is argued that wh-words in Czech denote lambda-operators, which are viewed as functions from truth values to predicates. It follows that wh-words (and indefinite pronouns) must be interpreted in the sister-node of an expression denoting a truth value and therefore can never be interpreted in their base position. Finally, it is suggested how the analysis could be used to account for the behavior of the indefinite pronoun kdokoliv ‘anyone’, which is (under certain conditions) interpreted as a free choice item in a narrow focus (postverbal) position and as a negative polarity item in a broad focus (preverbal) position.

  • Issue Year: 70/2009
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 342-352
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Czech