Two types of attenuation strategies for polarity-sensitive items: The semantics of degree adverbs amari and sonnani in Japanese
Misato Ido, Ai Kubota, Yusuke Kubota
January 2022

Cross-linguistically, degree modifying adverbs often exhibit polarity sensitivity, and they can be broadly classified into emphatic (e.g. He isn’t clever at all) and understating/attenuating (e.g. He isn’t all that clever) types (Israel 1996). The degree adverbs amari and sonnani are both attenuators that can be licensed by negation (just like English all that), but they show distributional differences in non-negative environments (Matsui 2013, Nihongo Kijutsu Bunpoo Kenkyuukai 2007 and references therein). Ido (2019) confirms these observations by corpus study, and further notes that, among different types of conditionals, amari (but not sonnani) most frequently appears in the to-conditional, a type of conditional that expresses generalizations and tendencies. Building on these previous studies, we sketch the beginnings of an analysis for amari and sonnani in this paper. Our proposal essentially is that amari and sonnani achieve their attenuating effects via different pragmatic strategies: whereas sonnani simply indicates the speaker’s (or the attitude holder’s) suspension of P(d) (with some contextually posed d) to be common ground (cf. Onea and Sailer (2013) on English all that), amari signals the speaker’s (or the attitude holder’s) belief about what s/he presumes to be the ‘natural/unsurprising consequence’ of accepting P(d).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006374
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Under review for an edited volume
keywords: negative-polarity item, japanese, attenuation, discourse update, semantics
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