Negative polarity items in yes-no questions

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2019

Thesis Language: English


Principal Supervisor (For Co-Supervisor Theses): Martina Gracanin Yüksek

Co-Supervisor: Umut Özge


This thesis is about licensing of Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) in non-negative Yes-No (YN) questions in Turkish. I argue that NPIs are licensed in such environments only if the interrogative feature on C is spelled out by the question particle mI. I propose that this is achieved if the question particle, base-generated as the head of the FocP that dominates the TP, is moved to C after it is picked up by the verb. Empirical evidence for my argument comes from both matrix and embedded YN questions, where NPIs are only licensed if mI is attached to the verb. Additionally, NPIs in an embedded clause are licensed only if the embedded C is not occupied by an overt complementizer and this is only true in non-nominalized embedded clauses. As a secondary objective, I argued for a placement algorithm for the questions particle that accounts for the various positions that the particle can occupy and derives both the narrow- and wide-scope interpretations that arise depending on the position that mI occupies. In the algorithm, mI is base-generated as the head of the FocP and lowers itself to the position it ends up occupying by traversing the tree downwards and attaching itself to the left daughter of each node it hits on the way, provided this daughter hosts overt material. As a third objective, I tested if L2 English learners with L1 Turkish license NPIs in non-negative YN questions in their L2 English by the same mechanism that I argued for in Turkish. This was done through an acceptability judgement task. The results suggested that the different mechanism existing in English were not influenced by the one in L1 Turkish of the learners.