More PREP-Loss?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 13 17:20:20 UTC 2008

At 8:40 AM -0700 3/13/08, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On Mar 13, 2008, at 7:46 AM, Larry Horn wrote:
>>At 2:18 PM +0000 3/13/08, ronbutters at wrote:
>>>Cf. the ambiguity of "I don't believe some of the things you people
>>>talk about!"
>>or cf.:
>>--Do you believe in adult baptism?
>>--Believe in it?  Hell, I've seen it done!
>several more meanings/uses, concerning plain "believe" (transitive) in
>one case, "believe in" (intransitive) in another.  i'm not sure
>they're parallel.  i hadn't thought about either of them before.  the
>OED entry is pretty good on most of this stuff -- except, i think, for
>the incredulity/amazement sense of ron's example.
>i *think* that the incredulity/amazement sense for transitive
>"believe" appears only under negation: don't/can't/won't believe.
>things like "I really believe a lot of the things you people talk
>about!" are just bizarre in a sense parallel to ron's.
>larry: does anyone have this one on their list of NPIs?
Not that I know of (there's another one, viz. "that I know of"), but
maybe because the restricted-distribution sense is so hard to zoom in
on.  For example, I get the following:

I don't believe that!
I can't believe that!
{Do/Can} you believe that?
#I believe that!
(?)I can believe that!

(The last two are better as a direct response to a previous negative
assertion, but as your NPI note suggests, still not perfect for me.)

And it's more restricted than your garden-variety NPI ("any", "ever",
minimizers like "give a damn") in that it's pretty hopeless in
embedded contexts, so these seem hard to get on the relevant
incredulity/amazement readings:

#If I could believe a lot of the things you people talk about...
#Everyone who believes a lot of the things you people talk about...


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