While I was thinking about the NPI post, I noticed that the usage of "any" seems to be a mess. Compare these two sentences:
(1) I'll take any road.
(2) I took any road.
It seems to me that (1) is obviously OK, and (2) is obviously wrong. I can't even tell what (2) would mean.
From the first few pages of the Google search, "took any" seems to occur only in NPI-licensing contexts, whereas "take any" appears in 'will take any unwanted corn snakes, which is not I think NPI-licensing. For instance,
(3) I will ever take unwanted corn snakes
seems wrong (unless 'ever' is being used archaically). And that disturbs me. Why should changing the tense change the acceptability of "any"? Unless (1) is actually a habitual tense, which would make a difference.
Anyway, Kai von Fintel has just posted a link to a Larry Horn paper on "any," which I'm sure is required reading for anyone who wants to think about this seriously. So--no thinking about this seriously unless and until I read Horn's paper.
[UPDATE: Yep, Horn's paper explains the difference between (1) and (2). From footnote 2, on p. 5:
Haspelmath... notes (1993: 52-55) that free-choice indefinites tend to be prosodically prominent and are invariably (as opposed to the corresponding ordinary some-series indefinites) non-specific; it is when the non-specifics are contextually ruled out (as in past perfectives or present progressives) that FC any and its cross-linguistic analogues are generally impossible. [Haspelmath 1993 = A Typological Study of Indefinite Pronouns. PhD dissertation, Freie Universitšt Berlin.]
If I've got the terminology right, (2) is a past perfective, and it rules out any because you can't have taken a non-specific road; if you take a road, there must be some road you've taken. (Or is "I've taken..." the past perfective? It may be that (2) is acceptable when it's meant habitually: "[When I was on the bum] I took any road [that I found myself on].")
Anyway, this also explains why the present progressive (4) is bad:
(4) I'm taking any road.
Again, there must be one specific road that you're taking. Though again it seems to me that you can make FC any acceptable in present progressive when it has a habitual reading:
(5) At this point in my life, I'm joining any club that will have me as a member.
Any road, you can take this post as a pointer to interesting stuff rather than anything original. That's a good way to take most of my linguistics posts.]Posted by Matt Weiner at February 14, 2005 04:05 PM