8 October 2019: Hedde Zeijlstra

Until’s Janus head 

(joint work with Sabine Iatridou)

AbstractAs is well-known, until in English has two usages. One usage of untilknown as punctual until, may only appear in a negative context (1) and comes along with a non-cancellable actuality inference,  while another usage of until, known as durative until, can be used in both positive (2) and negative contexts (3) and lacks a non-cancellable actuality inference (4) when it is negated:

(1)        She did*(n’t) leave until 5pm
            a.         #…  I don’t know about earlier
            b.         #… In fact, she has never had one
(2)       She was working until 5pm  (…I don’t know what happened after 5pm)
(3)       She wasn’t working until 5pm
(4)       a.         … I don’t know about later
            b.         … in fact, she didn’t work at all.

In this talk, I will provide a unified analysis that accounts for these facts by arguing that the semantics of until is such that it becomes an NPI when combined with perfective morphology, but bit when combined with imperfect morphology. Then it actually becomes a PPI. Following up on earlier work in NPI in years, I will furthermore show that only when until scopes directly under negation, it can and must act as a domain widener, which will, in turn, derive the non-cancellable actuality inference.