New, Keely and Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, 2018. “The expression of exhaustivity and scalarity in Burmese.”
Poster presented at SALT 28.

Colloquial Burmese has a particle ma which in some contexts has an exhaustive use and in other contexts seems to be a scalar particle. Okell’s 1969 reference grammar describes these two uses simply as “hmaA” ‘even’ and “hmaB ” ‘only’ without describing their distributions. In addition, ma takes wh-phrases to form NPIs.

We describe the distributions of each of these uses and offer a unified semantics for ma which derives these uses. ma is a not-at-issue scalar exhaustive, expressing that all less likely alternatives are false, akin to Velleman et al’s analysis of clefts. When ma takes wide scope, it contributes exhaustivity, but under the scope of negation, its felicitous use is dependent on the relative likelihood of the prejacent.

We also offer an analysis for the use of the mood ending –dar as a propositional cleft, explaining its co-occurrance with scalar uses of ma.