Lexicalization of negation and its role for the development of negation markers

Project leader

Funding source

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2011
Funding: 1989000 SEK


The term standard negation (SN) refers to the negation markers in simple declarative sentences with an overt verb predicate like (i) Maria does not smoke. The negation markers in sentences such as (ii) Britt is not a teacher (a non-verbal sentence) and (iii) There are no ghosts (an existential sentence) are excluded from large-scale comparative studies on SN. In languages from Western Europe, the negation markers in sentences like (ii) and (iii) are identical with SN. However, this is not the case in many other languages elsewhere in the world. For instance, in Serbian, SN is expressed by a particle ne as in (iv) Maria ne peva ‘Maria does not sing'; two different negators are used for the negation of non-verbal sentences like (v) Tom nije nastavchik ‘Tom is not a teacher' and existential sentences like (vi) Nema divlijh machaka ‘Wild cats do not exist'. I use the term special negators to refer to the negation markers restricted to sentences like (v) and (vi).

The current project has two parts, one is synchronic and the other diachronic. For the synchronic part of the project, I will produce a description of both SN and special negators in a sample of several language families. In the diachronic part of the project, my focus is on the evolution of special negators, ways in which they interact with SN, and finally, how they themselves may become sources for SN. The ultimate goal of this study is to test and revise existing models of the evolution of negation in human languages.

Last updated on 2017-29-03 at 17:13