University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This work examines the meaning of the Hindi particle ‘-hii’ and sheds new light on the link between modality and words like ‘only.’ Our two new judgment studies reveal that ‘-hii’ indicates exclusivity (like 'only,' and other similar lexical items) and also can associate with either the MIN or MAX of a scale of propositional alternatives. More specifically, the alternatives are ordered based on speaker conceptions of likelihood or of desirability, and which endpoint is felicitous with ‘-hii’ depends on which scale is made salient by the discourse context. Since existing analyses of 'only' and 'even' are insufficient for capturing the presuppositions of ‘-hii’ that are revealed by the experimental data, we draw on the recent theoretical literature on modality to map these ranking types of ‘-hii’ to epistemic, bouletic, and teleological modality types that form its core scalar felicity condition. Besides helping to formalize the varied types of speaker expectations needed by ‘-hii’, this move helps to explain some differences between the likelihood and desirability contexts' patterning of data in our experimental results.