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Cisneros: Free Choice and Indiscriminacy in Cuevas Mixtec

December 6, 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Free choice and indiscriminacy in Cuevas Mixtec

Carlos Cisneros

University of California-Berkeley

Online: Email rashields@wisc.edu for link

This talk evaluates the best analysis for capturing the syntactic and semantic properties of free choice indefinites in Cuevas Mixtec.  Cuevas Mixtec is an indigenous Otomanguean language of southern Mexico, whose free choice indefinites take the form of “abbreviated non-specific free relative clauses” (Haspelmath 1995, 1998), or headless relative clauses that are grammaticalized into indefinite noun phrases.  Despite their clausal appearances, they display polarity sensitivity and are able to take on other nominal modifiers, like relative clauses.  As reduced relative clauses, they are decomposable into their lexical parts, and the alternation of these parts can alter their meaning and distributional properties.  For example, free choice indefinites tend to occur with a concessive marker va, which expands their distribution while present and reduces their distribution while removed.  The flexible internal structure of these indefinites allows for a more compositional take on their meaning contribution, such that their meaning is at least in part predictable from the meanings of their lexical parts.  In comparing modern approaches to the semantics of free choice indefinites across languages, the most accommodating approach for Cuevas Mixtec seems to be those that analyse free choice indefinites as conditional clauses (van rooij 2008; Rawlins 2013) semantically.  The “scalar indefinite” approach (Chierchia 2013) undergenerates with respect to capturing the various readings of free choice indefinites in Cuevas Mixtec, which include indiscriminative readings under negation (e.g. English “just any”).


December 6, 2021
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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