Spurious NPI licensing and exhaustification.


Under certain circumstances, speakers are subject to so-called spurious NPI licensing effects, whereby they perceive that NPIs without a c–commanding licensor are in fact licensed and grammatical. Previous studies have all involved the presence of a licensor in a position that linearly precedes, but does not c–command the NPI. In this paper, we show that spurious NPI licensing can occur in the outright absence of a licensor, in contexts that force an exhaustive parse. We reason that at least these instances of spurious NPI licensing might be reduced to the EXH operator pragmatically “rescuing” the NPI, in the sense of Giannakidou (1998, 2006).

Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory, 28, 233-250.