Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics

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Polarity Items
(2,569 words)

Polarity items are words or phrases which cannot appear in either positive or negative sentences. Roughly they can be divided into three types: negative polarity items [NPIs], positive polarity items [PPIs], and free choice items [FCIs].

NPIs occur only in environments with negative connotation (cf. Linebarger 1991). A Chinese example is given in (1), where the NP with rènhé 任何 ‘any’ is a NPI which cannot appear in positive sentences.




Zhāng Sān *(méi  yǒu)  rènshì  rènhé rén.


Zhāng Sān     not  have  know   any person


‘Zhāng Sān *(doesn’t) know anyone.’

In additi…

Cite this page
Hsiu-Chen Daphne LIAO, “Polarity Items”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 29 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000334>
First published online: 2015

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