positive polarity operators and existence

Pål Kristian Eriksen p.k.eriksen at ILF.UIO.NO
Fri Jan 17 13:15:33 UTC 2003

   Dear colleagues.

     In Basque there is a prefix, ba-, which has a puzzling double 
function. It can primarily be analysed as a type of positive polarity 
operator which is prefixed to the finite verb when the sentence counters a 
previously made negative proposition:

     1) Ez  du  sagarr-a  ja-n  ume-a-k
        NEG  have.PRES.3sgSUB.3sgOBJ  apple-ART  eat-PERFPART  kid-ART-ERG
        "The kid hasn't eaten the apple"

     2) Ba-du  sagarr-a  ja-n  ume-a-k
        Ba-have.PRES.3sgSUB.3sgOBJ  apple-ART  eat-PERFPART  kid-ART-ERG
        "The kid has indeed / in fact / so eaten the apple!"

     The sentence in 2) is used to counter the negative proposition made in 
1), thus ba- appears in the polarity operator position to the left of the 
finite auxiliary. (See Laka, Itziar, 1994, "On the Syntax of Negation" for 
an analysis of Basque polarity operators and polarity nodes)

     However, ba- is also licensed in existential sentences (3)), without 
forcing any stress on the sentence's positive polarity as seen in 2).

     3) Ba-da  txakurr-a  ortu-a-n
        Ba-be.PRES.3.sgSUB  dog-ART  garden-ART-LOC
        "There is a dog in the garden"

     Negative existential sentences simply substitute ba- with the negative 
operator ez: (The subject is furthermore set in the partitive case, but 
that is irrelevant to the current discussion)

     4) Ez  da  txakurr-ik  ortu-a-n
        NEG  be.PRES.3sgSUB  dog-PART  garden-ART-LOC
        "There isn't any dog in the garden"

     My question is if you are aware of other languages in which a positive 
polarity operator has this additional function. I would also like to know 
if there are languages in which such positive operators are used in forming 
expressions of perfect tense and / or non-evidentiality (irrespective of 
whether the operators appear in existential sentences or not). I will 
summarise any interesting results for the list.

     Thanks in advance,

     Pål Kr. Eriksen

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