On the emergence of an aspectual NPI: comparative polysemy and the case of Diyari marla

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DOI:

https://doi.org/10.3765/f2rq0k90

Abstract

Cross-linguistically, morphological material that expresses comparison (e.g. more) appears to be colexified with aspectual (“phasal”) adverbs that, under negation, encode the termination of some eventuality (CESSATIVEs, e.g. *(not)...anymore). Using data drawn from the Diyari language of central Australia, we propose a diachronic trajectory for the lexical item marla ‘very, truly’. This word first developed a comparative semantics and, subsequently, a cessative reading restricted to negative polar contexts. This proposal moves us towards a lexical entry that permits for the unification of comparative and aspectual readings for items which exhibit this polysemy and—on the basis of robust pragmatic principles— predicts their polarity-sensitive distribution cross-linguistically.

Author Biographies

  • Josh Phillips, Yale University
    Postdoctoral fellow, Yale Linguistics
  • Claire Bowern, Yale University
    Professor, Yale Linguistics

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Published

2024-02-05

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Articles