Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Olga KELLERT

What NPIs have in common with interjections and modal particles

Abstract/Résumé: I propose a unified analysis of some lexical elements cavolo/cazzo (literal meaning ‘cabbage, penis’) in Italian, despite their multifunctional properties: a) as NPIs (e.g. Chi capisce un cavolo/un cazzo con questi equazioni? ‘Who understands anything about math?’); b) as interjections which are not embeddable at all and can be replaced by other interjections, e.g. accidenti ‘shit!’ (e.g. Cazzo, dove siamo? ‘Oh shit! Where are we?’) and c) as particles they appear right next to the wh-word and cannot be replaced by other interjections (e.g. Dove (cazzo/cavolo/*accidenti) siamo? ‘Where (the hell) are we?’ I argue that questions with cazzo/cavolo do not simply make a negative statement which describes a state of affairs (see Han 2002 among others), because questions with cazzo/cavolo do have an existential presupposition and they can be answered. Moreover, they behave like questions and not like negative assertions (empirical evidence will be shown on the basis of Negative Concord in Italian). I propose to analyze questions with cazzo/cavolo on a par with questions embedded under surprise-predicates (see Sharvit 2002:103 for a formal analysis). Unlike questions embedded under surprise-predicates, a question with cazzo/cavolo expresses a conditional surprise, i.e. the speaker is surprised about the answer just in case the hearer provides a positive answer. In this way, I account for the fact that questions with cazzo/cavolo can (but need not) have a positive answer (see e.g. 1). The proposal will explain some empirical data taken from a corpus of spontaneous speech: i. the speaker's commitment attested in questions with cavolo/cazzo, ii. questions with cazzo/cavolo can be asked in situations in which all expected answers (or the one expected most) - given in the discourse - do not match the existential presupposition of the question, hence the surprise reading: 1. Ehi, ma se siamo tutti qua, chi cazzo sta guidando? ‘Wait a minute, if everyone is here, then who the hell is driving over there?’ Han, Ch. (2002): “Interpreting interrogatives as rhetorical questions.“ Lingua 112, 112–229. Sharvit, Y. (2002): “Embedded Questions and De Dicto Readings,” Natural Language Semantics 10, 97-123.