adjacent vs. verbal 'only'

Nigel Vincent nigel.vincent at MANCHESTER.AC.UK
Sun Jun 14 10:08:52 UTC 2009

The French construction Martin mentions had occurred to me as well -  
note that it also occurs in Italian and in a different variant in  
Spanish. In connection with this construction, let me recommend the  
excellent article by Kai von Fintel & Sabine Iatridou 'Anatomy of a  
modal construction' Linguistic Inquiry 38 (2007), pp. 445-483, which  
also brings in data from Greek and Hindi.

Quoting Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE>:

> Peter,
> I think the contrast between (adjacent) tol'ko/tik and (verbal)  
> only/te- is an important one, and the grammatical typology of such  
> focus quantifiers is a fascinating topic that is just barely  
> beginning to be explored. So I look forward to seeing your work on  
> Lithuanian.
> But I'm not so sure that the contrast between "affixal" and  
> "non-affixal" only-expressions is going to be very interesting,  
> because we don't have good criteria for telling affixes apart from  
> words. Couldn't Lithuanian tik be regarded as an affix as well, or  
> te as a free word? Apparently the main reason why tik is not  
> considered an affix is that it is non-selective (or "promiscuous")  
> with respect to its host, i.e. it can occur next to words of diverse  
> categories, whereas te only occurs next to verbs. But that is best  
> described as an adjacency difference (focus quantifier is adjacent  
> to its focus or occurs in a fixed position close to the verb), not  
> an indepenent difference in "affixhood". Note that many of the  
> "suffixes" in the Gast & van der Auwera database would have to be  
> considered words, not suffixes, by the non-selectivity criterion (it  
> seems that the main criterion for classifying them as suffixes is  
> the spelling).
> Incidentally, another well-known language that has a (partly) verbal  
> 'only'-marker is French:
> Ivan ne lit que des livres.
> 'Ivan only reads books (and nothing else).'
> In French, the 'only' marker is bipartite, with one verbal part (ne)  
> (which is often argued to be affixal), and one adjacent part (que)  
> (which is rarely argued to be affixal, due to its non-selective  
> character).
> Martin
> peterarkadiev schrieb:
>> Dear colleagues,
>> I would like to inquire whether you could give me examples of  
>> languages exhibiting an affixal expression of meanings similar to  
>> English 'only'. Let me explain what I mean.
>> 1. In Russian, 'only' is expressed by a particle _tol'ko_, which  
>> must precede the constituent it has scope over, thus
>> (1a) Tol'ko Ivan chitaet knigi 'Only Ivan (and nobody else) reads books'
>> (1b) Ivan chitaet tol'ko knigi 'Ivan reads only books (and nothing else)'
>> (1c) Ivan tol'ko chitaet knigi 'Ivan only reads books (and does  
>> nothing else)', but not *'Ivan reads only books'
>> Are there languages where 'only' in sentences like (1a) and (1b)  
>> would be expressed as an affix on the noun?
>> 2. In English, as is well known, the particle _only_ can appear in  
>> the preverbal position while having narrower scope (depending on  
>> intonation, as far as I may judge from the literature):
>> (1d) John only reads books - 'John reads books and does nothing else'
>> - 'John reads books and reads nothing else'
>> Are there languages where 'only' in sentences like (1d) would be  
>> expressed as a genuine affix on the verb? More importantly, I am  
>> especially interested in situations when such affix would allow  
>> readings similar to the second interpretation of (1d), i.e. with  
>> the narrow scope.
>> I know of one such language, namely Lithuanian (not an 'exotic'  
>> language, as it were). Here there are two expressions of 'only':  
>> one is a particle _tik_ in all relevant respects similar to the  
>> Russian _tol'ko_, and the other is a prefix _te-_, which, notably,  
>> shows scopal properties more similar to those of the English _only_  
>> (i.e. it allows almost any type of constituent to be in its scope,  
>> including the subject, the direct and indirect objects, obliques,  
>> and even can scope into the embedded clause with some matrix  
>> predicates). Now I am looking for typological parallels to this  
>> situation.
>> Many thanks in advance!
>> Best wishes,
>> Peter Arkadiev
>> Institute of Slavic Studies
>> Russian Academy of Sciences

Professor Nigel Vincent, FBA
Associate Vice-President for Graduate Education
Director of the Manchester Doctoral College

PA: Louise Pemberton (louise.pemberton at; 0161-275-2227)

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