Negating the Verum: The Syntax and Semantics of Preposed Negation in Danish

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    In Danish the base position of the negation (and negated quantifier phrases) is between the subject and the finite verb in embedded clauses. However, in embedded clauses introduced by a non-veridical complementizer such as hvis ‘if’ or om ‘whether’, the negation can also appear between the complementizer and the subject. This little-studied phenomenon is referred to as preposed negation. The article investigates the syntax and semantics of preposed negation from a primarily descriptive point of view. It is argued that preposed negation is associated with negated verum-focus of a clause lacking an (aboutness-)topic. The negation of a verum predicate explains why preposed negation—like other constructions with verum-focus—fails to license strong negative polarity items and fails to rule out positive ones. The lack of a topic explains why preposed negation is preferred with non-referential subjects and with weak readings of indefinite subjects and why preposed negation is incompatible with topic-binding particles. It is further argued that preposed negation is not a lexical head (or part of a compound), but that it projects a phrase with wide scope, which is selected by the complementizer, rather than adjoined to the following clause. Two possible analyses of preposed negation are presented: an account where the preposed negation is in the specifier of a (selected) Polarity Phrase, and one where the preposed negation is selected as an optional complement by the complementizer.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)49-105
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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