Every chapter in this book includes evidence concerning the licensing of Italian ‘n-words’, a term proposed by Zanuttini to distinguish negative items such as nessuno ‘nobody/anybody’, nulla and niente ‘nothing/anything’, mai ‘never/ever’, neppure ‘not even’ from negative polarity items, with which they do not completely overlap (Zanuttini 1991). To avoid repetitions, the main aspects of their distribution and licensing are presented in this appendix. A review of the analyses that have been proposed to account for these facts is provided in Penka (2011).
1 Main properties
The presentationally-focused sentences in (2) provide a first illustration of the above generalization. The postverbal negative subject, object, indirect object, adverb, and adjunct of these sentences are located in situ, hence lower than T. They are all licensed by the preceding sentential neg-marker non ‘not’, which can be considered as incorporated into T or located in a negative projection above T depending on which analysis is adopted (e.g. Belletti 1990; Laka 1990; Zanuttini 1991; Haegeman 1995). If the sentential neg-marker is removed, licensing is disrupted and all sentences are ungrammatical.
(p.298) Italian is a negative concord language, so the licensing neg-marker and the licensed items do not trigger a double negative interpretation. Furthermore, a single licenser may license multiple n-words, see (3).
Right-dislocated phrases aside, n-words need no licensing when occurring preverbally above and c-commanding T. This is true of specTP negative subjects in presentationally focused sentences, see (4), and also of focused n-words fronted before and above TP as shown in (5) (main stress represented in capitals).
(p.299) 2 Licensing under c-command
Licensing requires c-command between licenser and licensee. For example, in (6)(a) the negative adverb and object in the matrix clause can only be licensed by the matrix neg-marker non1 and not by the neg-marker non2 located inside the sentential subject. As (6)(b) shows, when non1 is removed, the sentence is ungrammatical.
Similarly, an n-word like nessuno can license a postverbal negative object under c‑command when acting as the sentence subject as in (7)(a) but not when contained in a larger subject and thus not meeting the necessary c-command relation as in (7)(b).
C-command must hold at surface (thanks to Ad Neeleman for raising this issue). For example, wh-extraction of the negative object in (8)(a) is ungrammatical even though the object would be c‑commanded by the neg-marker under reconstruction as shown by the corresponding declarative (8)(b). Note that no other factor is blocking wh-extraction in (8)(a), since the same question is grammatical when the n‑word is removed as in (8)(c). Nor is (8)(a) ungrammatical due to the presence of negation, as the correspondent sentence without negation is also ungrammatical, see (8)(d).
The sentences in (9) illustrate the same point relative to a negative indirect object. Licensing under reconstruction is unavailable in (9)(a) even though the same argument is licensed when occurring in situ as in (9)(b). Sentence (9)(c) shows that the original question is fine as soon as the n-word is replaced with a numeral, showing that n-word licensing is the only factor responsible for the ungrammaticality of (9)(a).
The irrelevance of reconstruction for the licensing of n-words and negative phrases is also indirectly supported by the ungrammaticality of idiomatic NPIs focused left-peripherally. The indefinite objects in (10) may only be interpreted idiomatically as meaning ‘anybody’ when c‑commanded by an NPI-licenser. If licensing under reconstruction were possible, the indefinite objects should be able to focus left-peripherally as in (11). Instead, they are ungrammatical under the intended interpretation, as they are no longer c‑commanded by their licenser.
Finally, note the wide range of suitable licensers that are available when the necessary c‑command relation is satisfied. As (12) shows, negative subjects, yes/no operators, and negative matrix verbs like dubitare ‘doubt’ may all license a postverbal negative object, showing that the licensing relation can stretch across an entire CP.