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ven. 25/10/2019 Negation: Typology, diachrony, and areality
MSH, salle Ennat Léger
Conférence de :
  • Olga Krasnoukhova (University of Antwerp)
dans le cadre DTT : Atelier Morphosyntaxe

The cross-linguistic comparison of ‘standard negation’, i.e. the negation of main clause declarative sentences with an overt verbal predicate, shows a universal tendency for languages to have a clausal negator before the verb. This has been first noted by Jespersen (1917:5), and although this observation was based on a small number of related languages, this tendency – also known now as the ‘Negative-First Principle’ after Horn 1989/2001 – has been confirmed ever since in studies based on large and representative samples (e.g. Dahl 1979, 2010; Dryer 1988, 2013; Vossen 2013, inter alia). Even though these studies differ in approach as to the type of verb that the negator precedes or follows, namely, lexical verb (finite or not) or auxiliary (when there is one), the results point in the same direction: Dahl (1979) finds a majority of languages in his sample to have a negator before the finite verb. In Dryer (2013), approximately 70% of the 1324 languages surveyed have a negation marker before the lexical verb. In constructions with negation of imperative clauses, or prohibitives, the tendency for the preverbal position of a negative element seems even stronger (Horn 2001:450). A cross-linguistic study by Van Olmen (2010:492) suggests this too. Nonetheless, despite this strong universal tendency, a sizable proportion of the world’s languages express negation after the verb, and this concerns both standard negation and imperative negation. Interestingly, a good number of these languages seem to cluster in areas, including the ‘Macro Sudan Belt’ (Güldemann 2007; Idiatov 2015), New Guinea (Reesink 2002; Vossen 2016), and South America as a macro-area (Muysken et al. 2014:306; Vossen 2016). The documented clustering of postverbal negation in the areas mentioned above suggests that this strategy can arise or be reinforced through language contact.

Cross-linguistically, it is not unusual for languages to use the same negator for different types of negation synchronically (van der Auwera & Krasnoukhova, forthc.). In fact, same negative markers can be indicative of a diachronic relation between negative functions. However, it seems also the case that languages prefer to use specialized means. Thus, negation of non-verbal predicates (often referred to as ‘ascriptive negation’) commonly requires negative markers different from those used for standard negation (Eriksen 2011), it is more common than not to have specialized prohibitive markers or verb forms (see Van der Auwera & Lejeune 2013), and negative existentials tend to differ from standard negation markers (Veselinova 2013. In my introductory talk, I will first offer an overview of the main typological parameters pertaining to the domain of negation. Second, I will outline a few diachronic processes known for negation formation. Finally, I will zoom in on South American languages for a brief illustration of some areal patterns in negation marking.

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