- On French negation
- 35th annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society
- Book/source title
- Proceedings of the thirty-fifth annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, February 14-16, 2009: general session and parasession on negation
- Pages (from-to)
- Berkeley Linguistics Society
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Two main characteristics of French negation are (i) that the language is a so-called Negative Concord (NC) language; and (ii) that French exhibits so-called embracing negation. NC refers to the phenomenon where multiple negative expressions yield only one negation. Embracing negation means that the language exhibits two negative markers, preverbal ‘ne’ and postverbal ‘pas’, that embrace the finite verb. At first sight the two phenomena seem to behave on a par. Both in combination with French n-words and with French pas, ne may co-occur. But co-occurrence of pas with an n-word always yields a Double Negation (DN), i.e. a non-NC, reading. In this paper I argue that French n-words carry the same feature as n-words in other languages (following Zeijlstra (2004)): [uNEG]. However, I argue that French ne does not carry any formal feature and is a plain Negative Polarity Item (NPI). Due to the NPI status of ne it follows that ne cannot invoke the presence of an abstract negative operator as that is restricted to n-words only (by virtue of their [uNEG] feature). Moreover, it also follows why pas cannot establish an NC relation with n-word. Since cases of ne ... pas can no longer been seen as cases of syntactic agreement, these constructions cannot act as a cue for language learners to assign a formal negative feature to pas. Pas is thus only lexically and therefore semantically, but not formally (i.e. morphosyntactically) negative.
If you believe that digital publication of certain material infringes any of your rights or (privacy) interests, please let the Library know, stating your reasons. In case of a legitimate complaint, the Library will make the material inaccessible and/or remove it from the website. Please Ask the Library, or send a letter to: Library of the University of Amsterdam, Secretariat, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You will be contacted as soon as possible.