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date: 07 October 2022

Negation and Polarity in the Romance Languageslocked

Negation and Polarity in the Romance Languageslocked

  • Vincenzo MoscatiVincenzo MoscatiDepartment of Social, Political, and Cognitive Sciences, Università di Siena

Summary

Negation in Romance offers a wide array of cross-linguistic variation. For what concerns sentential negation, three main strategies are employed depending on the position of the negative marker with respect to the finite verb: some varieties (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) adopt a preverbal particle, others (e.g., Gallo-Italic varieties) a postverbal one, and some others (e.g., French) a combination of both. Negation can also surface in the left-most clausal positions, generally carrying an additional meaning expressed by emphatic polarity particles. The diverse options available in contemporary varieties stemmed from their common ancestor, Latin, through a sequence of (potentially) cyclical grammatical changes captured by the Jespersen’s cycle. A further dimension of variation concerns negative indefinites (N-words) and their interpretation when combined with negation, resulting in strict and nonstrict negative concord depending on the availability of double negation readings in both pre- and postverbal positions or only postverbally. In addition, the evolution of indefinites from Latin to modern Romance languages constitutes its own quantifier’s cycle. This cycle classifies the continuous diachronic changes that have occurred through the centuries into a sequence of discrete steps, imposing constraints on the transition of indefinites from one stage to the next. Despite the great variability in the ways negation is expressed, its interpretive properties are not fully constrained by superficial variations. Logical scope in particular is not bound to the syntactic position where negation surfaces and inverse scope readings are generally possible.

Subjects

  • Semantics
  • Syntax

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