Input versus output in the acquisition of negative polarity: The curious case of any

Lyn Tieu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper draws on the simple observation that young children acquire the constraints on negative polarity items (NPIs) with relative ease and speed, and, against the backdrop of existing theoretical proposals about licensing, identifies a fundamental learning puzzle. We will begin with an overview of the methods that have been used to tap into normally-developing English-speaking children's knowledge of NPI any; such methods have revealed evidence of adult-like knowledge of the licensing condition on any in children as young as 2-3 years of age. To address the question of how children get to this stage, I examine samples of caregiver input, and discuss how they reveal different kinds of evidence for any's restricted distribution and its licensers. Importantly however, I argue that the caregiver input does not provide direct evidence of the underlying semantics of any. If only a subset of what must be acquired is present in the input, we are left with a puzzling learning problem about how children arrive at the target representation of NPIs such as any.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNegation and Polarity
Subtitle of host publicationExperimental Perspectives
EditorsPierre Larrivée, Chungmin Lee
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783319174648
ISBN (Print)9783319174631
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameLanguage Cognition and Mind
ISSN (Print)2364-4109


  • Acquisition
  • Child language
  • Child-directed speech
  • Learnability
  • Negative polarity
  • NPI licensing


Dive into the research topics of 'Input versus output in the acquisition of negative polarity: The curious case of any'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this