Why are there disjunctive particles in Sinhala & Dravidian relative-correlatives?: existential particles in nonexistential environments


Relative-correlative constructions in Dravidian and literary varieties of Sinhala use a quantifier particle as a ‘closing particle’ in the relative clause; such constructions often involve free choice interpretations. Unexpectedly, the quantifier particle involved is part of the disjunctive/existential group (used in forming disjunctions, indefinites, questions) rather than the additive/universal group, as opposed to the case in Hindi and other languages. I provide an analysis which treats these particles as variables over choice-functions carrying an anti-singleton presupposition, which accounts for their use in the formation of epistemic indefinites in Sinhala & Malayalam. In the case where such particles are internal to a relative clause, the quantificational force contributed by the relative pronoun produces a universally quantified environment out-scoping the existentially-bound choice function variables. This forms part of a larger effort to understand the nature of particles expressing what seem to be elementary logical operations (Szabolcsi৽ৼ, Slade৾ৼ৽৽, Mitrović &c.)

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Benjamin Slade
Associate Professor of Linguistics