Negating the Verum

The Syntax and Semantics of Preposed Negation in Danish

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    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
    Volume15
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)49-105
    ISSN1383-4924
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Cite this

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    title = "Negating the Verum: The Syntax and Semantics of Preposed Negation in Danish",
    abstract = "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.",
    author = "Bjarne {\O}rsnes",
    year = "2012",
    doi = "10.1007/s10828-012-9049-4",
    language = "English",
    volume = "15",
    pages = "49--105",
    journal = "Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics",
    issn = "1383-4924",
    publisher = "Springer",
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    }

    Negating the Verum : The Syntax and Semantics of Preposed Negation in Danish. / Ørsnes, Bjarne.

    In: Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2012, p. 49-105.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    AB - 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.

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