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Frames, polarity and causation

  • A polarity-sensitive item (PSI), as traditionally defined, is an expression that is restricted to either an affirmative or negative context. PSIs like ‘lift a finger’ and ‘all the time in the world’ sub-serve discourse routines like understatement and emphasis. Lexical–semantic classes are increasingly invoked in descriptions of the properties of PSIs. Here, we use English corpus data and the tools of Frame Semantics (Fillmore, 1982, 1985) to explore Israel’s (2011) observation that the semantic role of a PSI determines how the expression fits into a contextually constructed scalar model. We focus on a class of exceptions implied by Israel’s model: cases in which a given PSI displays two countervailing patterns of polarity sensitivity, with attendant differences in scalar entailments. We offer a set of case studies of polaritysensitive expressions – including verbs of attraction and aversion like ‘can live without’, monetary units like ‘a red cent’, comparative adjectives and time-span adverbials – that demonstrate that the interpretation of a given PSI in a given polar context is based on multiple factors. These factors include the speaker’s perspective on and affective stance towards the described event, available inferences about causality and, perhaps most critically, particulars of the predication, including the verb or adjective’s frame membership, the presence or absence of an ability modal like can, the grammatical construction used and the range of contingencies evoked by the utterance.

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Author:Josef RuppenhoferGND, Laura A. Michaelis
Parent Title (English):Corpora
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
Place of publication:Edinburgh
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2016
Date of Publication (online):2016/09/12
Tag:Frame semantics; polarity sensitive items; scalar rhetoric; sentiment analysis
GND Keyword:Affirmativer Polaritätsausdruck; Formale Semantik; Frame-Semantik; Wissensextration
First Page:259
Last Page:290
The article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in the journal "Corpora,  Volume 11 Issue 2, Page 259-290, ISSN 1749-5032, Available Online Sep 2016"(DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/cor.2016.0094).
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 410 Linguistik / 410 Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt