Scope, scalarity, and polarity in aspectual marking : the case of English 'until' and Spanish 'hasta'




Bassa Vanrell, Maria Del Mar

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This dissertation explores how languages express durations of time and the significant cross-linguistic variation displayed in words describing temporal duration with otherwise quite similar meanings. Specially, I examine 'until'-like phrases that bound events in time. These phrases are puzzling because across languages they typically only modify atelic predicates and not telic predicates. Yet they are acceptable with telic predicates if the predicate is negated, and in that case they furthermore generate a factive inference that the event described by the predicate must come about at a future time. Additionally, some languages, like Greek, use two distinct lexical words, one for atelic predicates and one for telic predicates. Three major prior proposals have been posited: (i) a lexical ambiguity account wherein there is a positive 'until' and a negative 'until', (ii) a monosemy account wherein 'until' is a type of universal quantifier over times that interacts scopally with negation, and (iii) a monosemy account wherein 'until' is a type of measure phrase over an existentially-quantified event. However, each approach fails to generalize appropriately. I revisit these three theories by examining the behavior of English "until"-phrases vis-à-vis durative "for"-adverbials, as well as 'until' counterparts in languages that acquire a superset or a subset of the interpretations of English "until", such as Spanish "hasta" and Greek "mehri". I propose a monosemy account that draws on insights from all three prior analyses. The key insight is that there is parameterization in the quantification that 'until' words in different languages exhibit. English "until" is universal in nature subject to a scope economy constraint. Spanish "hasta" is existential in nature subject to a plurality constraint in positive environments. Both universal and existential 'until' allow for negated telic predicates but the latter admits a wider set of readings and also permits lexical specialization of 'until' under negation, as found in Greek. Ultimately, irrespective of their quantification, English "until" and Spanish "hasta" activate temporal scalar alternatives that I argue derive factive inferences as an epiphenomenon of independent scopal interactions between the alternatives, polarity, and covert exhaustification-based operators of the inferential mechanism.



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