Quelqu'un n'est pas venu

Translated title of the contribution: Someone did not come

Pierre Larrivée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Received wisdom has it that positive polarity items such as someone are incompatible with negation (?*Someone didn't come). Yet negative contexts are attested with such items not only in their specific indefinite reading (e.g. There's someone who didn't come), but also in their non-specific reading (It isn't the case that someone came). It is the non-specific reading of indefinite quelqu'un as subject of a negative verb phrase which is analysed by the present paper. On the basis of a corpus of attested cases, it demonstrates that polemic contrast is the crucial condition of the considered interpretation. As quelqu'un is included within a presupposed proposition that is rejected as a whole by negation, negative contexts can accommodate an item which does not normally yield the interpretations negation does. Interpretation is thus presented as process of mutual adjustment between contextual readings allowed for by items, readings which can be modalised by discursive values.
Translated title of the contributionSomeone did not come
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)279-296
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of French Language Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Copyright of Cambridge University Press


  • received wisdom
  • negative contexts
  • non-specific reading
  • negative verb phrase
  • polemic contrast
  • interpretation


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