Negation in Morphology
- Karen De ClercqKaren De ClercqDepartment of Linguistics, Ghent University
Negative markers are not a uniform category. They come in various types and, depending on their type, they take scope over a clause, a phrase, or just a word. Low scope negative markers (LSN) like de-, dis-, un-, iN-, non-, -less are bound morphemes and have therefore been mainly studied within morphology, focusing on the semantics of these markers (contradiction vs. contrariety), issues related to their productivity, and their combinability with certain categories. Wide scope negative markers (WSN), like not are often free morphemes and are usually treated within syntax. Thus there is a morphology-syntax divide when it comes to the treatment of negative markers.
However, there are reasons to give up this divide and to uniformly treat negative markers within one module of the grammar. First, from a typological point of view, the bound-free divide of negative markers does not correlate with their scope. For instance, agglutinative languages have WSN markers that are bound morphemes attaching to the verbal base. Second, morphological processes, like suppletion or other types of allomorphy, can be observed in markers that show properties of WSN markers. Third, independent negative particles, like for instance the Dutch free morpheme weinig ‘little, few’, shares stacking properties with other LSN markers like un- and iN-. Fourth, both LSN and WSN markers are subject to the same constraint concerning stacking scopally identical negative markers. Fifth, syncretisms have been found across languages between WSN and LSN, allowing negative markers to be ordered in such a way that no ABA patterns arise, suggesting that the morphology of negative markers reflects the natural scope of negation and that there is a continuum between LSN and WSN markers.