Scenarios of equivalence - The case of quelque

TitleScenarios of equivalence - The case of quelque
Publication TypeConference Paper
Année de publication2007
AuthorsJayez, J., & Tovena L.
Conference NameFunny Indefinites
Date Published2007
PublisherCornelia Ebert et Stefan Hinterwimmer.
Conference LocationBerlin, Germany.
KeywordsSCCO.LING Cognitive science/Linguistics

The French existential determiner quelque is examined in relation to the notion of equivalence. This notion, formalised as Equity in (Jayez and Tovena, 2008), is the explicit characterisation of a widespread intuition concerning free choice and epistemic items, according to which members of a set are presented as equivalent with respect to some relevant criterion or dimension. Equivalence is a unifying notion that enables us to embrace the different aspects of the distribution of quelque and turn them into a coherent whole. The paper discusses the epistemic component of quelque and draws attention to its evidential property, which is exploited in accounting for the subtle interplay be- tween the determiner and the types of nouns it combines with. It is then argued that the seeming positive polarity of quelque derives from the conventionalised effect of a processing interaction between its existential quantifier status and the epistemic implicature it conveys. By taking into account the pressure of processing mecha- nisms on the stabilisation of use, we are able to explain the otherwise puzzling fact that several epistemic determiners with unrelated morphology in different languages exhibit a converging behaviour with respect to negation. Finally, a closer look at di- achronic data reveals that the anti-specificity of quelque is present already in the early stages of the life of the item.

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