Now, this research is what I've been focusing on for the past two years, and it's very dear to me, but I've been reluctant to post on this stuff before. This is because the relevant data really belongs to my language consultant, not me, and I don't think it's right to just splash it all over the internet. But I think I've managed to write it in a way that avoids this problem since I don't actually provide any data.
So here is my full-of-holes-and-faulty-logic working analysis:
Assumption 1: In IE languages like English, semantic truth-values are encoded through Tense, or IP, in the clausal (verbal) domain. (Kearns 2000)
Messy Assumption 2: The semantic equivalent of truth-values in the nominal domain is existence, or referentiality. (Because I am, er, semantically-challenged, I'm not sure what the difference between existence and referentiality is. )
Now, here is a hole. Is this assumption justifiable? I figure that nominal elements don't really have truth-values, but something more like an existential, or referential value. Or looking at it the other way, a noun has (or doesn't have) a referential value, and the clausal/verbal is considered 'true' if event being referred to exists, and is 'false' if the event doesn't exist. Does that make sense? Man, I really wish there were more undergraduate classes in semantics. But anyways, assuming that the above, er, assumption [i], is justified, I'll move on with the holey analysis...
Generalization 1: NPIs are known for having existential narrow-scope - they are non-referential (Progovac 1994, Uribe-Etxebarria 1996)Assumption 3: Blackfoot lacks the syntactic node Tense, utterances instead being anchored deictically via a Participant (as in Speech Act Participant) node (Ritter & Wiltschko 2005).
Now, here's where my (poor excuse of an) analysis get's really vague and holey. I have a load of questions. If Blackfoot doesn't have the syntactic node Tense, how are semantic truth-values encoded? Or are they even encoded? Because there's this idea that several languages do not ASSERT information, but instead PRESENT information (or so I gathered from my LING 447 evidentials seminar...but have yet to find a citable reference) Does the Participant node encode truth-values, or some other semantic, perhaps speech act participant-related, property being encoded?
BUT anyways, if I jump over that giant hole in my analysis, and assume that there is some kind of Participant-related-semantic feature encoded by Participant node in the clausal/verbal domain, the simplest stab at what the nominal equivalent would just be Participant. Right? Because while it doesn't really make sense for nouns to have a +/- truth-value, they can certainly have a +/- SpeechActParticipant value.
Now putting this all together, one might predict that Blackfoot NPIs wouldn't have an existential property within the scope of negation, but instead have a parallel SpeechActParticipant property within the scope of negation. (Which, of course, I already know is the case, and I'm just pretending is a prediction for presentation's sake...)
So, despite the giant holes, does this analysis make sense? Is it interesting? I hope it's interesting...
And a question from this: How might such a semantic 'SpeechActParticipant' property manifest in other parts of the language? What kind of predictions does this analysis make? How cool would it be if this language didn't quantify over worlds, but instead over deictic spheres? Or something like that...
[i] I know Giannakidou's 1998 notion of semantic (non)veridicality (which is directly related to truth-values) translates (non)veridicality onto the nominal domain (with determiners and quantifiers) in terms of whether the denotation of the NP is nonempty or not...which kind of feels like the same sort of thing I'm trying to say. Except, of course, the semantic terminology is a giant barrier in my understanding. See now, I really could benefit from a 'Semantics Awareness Week'...(Hey, they have those wristbands for just about anything. Why not this?)