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Conference Information

Full Title: The Negative Existential Cycle from a Historical-Comparative Perspective

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Start Date: 04-May-2017 - 05-May-2017
Contact: Ljuba Veselinova
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: The purpose of this meeting is to gather together scholars with an interest in cyclical processes of language change, the evolution of negation and the use of comparative data for modelling paths of change.

The evolution of negation is often discussed in terms of a grammaticalization process dubbed Jespersen Cycle by Dahl (1979). Within this process, negation markers are seen to originate from emphatic elements in the negative phrase which gradually lose their sense of emphasis and are eventually interpreted as general verbal negators. Croft (1991) has suggested negative existentials as another source for negation markers. This author presented his hypothesis under the name Negative Existential Cycle (NEC). Despite renewed interest in cyclical processes in language change cf. (van Gelderen 2008, 2009, Willis, Lucas & Breitbath 2013), the NEC has received little attention. In order to examine its realizations from a wider cross-linguistic perspective we, Ljuba Veselinova (U of Stockholm) and Arja Hamari (U of Helsinki), have started a collaborative effort; we are hereby inviting other scholars to join in.

Veselinova has devoted several articles to a critical examination of the NEC cf. (Veselinova 2014, 2015, 2016). In these works she tests the NEC by applying it to comparative data from six families: Slavic, Uralic, Turkic, Dravidian, Berber and Polynesian. The main results of these tests can be summarized as follows

(i) Negative existentials commonly break into the domain of standard/verbal negation via their uses with nominalized verb forms.
(ii) In the typical case, negative existentials take over only parts of verbal negation e.g. a specific tense-aspect category. These partial take-overs tend to last for very long periods of time and thus look like stable states.
(iii) Negative existentials are most likely to take over the whole domain of standard negation in languages where predicate concatenation is very productive
(iv) Negative existentials are constantly renewed.

A more detailed overview of the generalizations outlined here is presented at the workshop website .

Lexington Books, are interested in publishing a peer-reviewed book on this topic. Following their interest, we are planning an edited volume where the NEC is tested on a family based sample with a world-wide coverage. To this end we are now seeking collaboration with other scholars who have expertise on specific language families and have an interest in in issues similar to those outlined below:

- Processes whereby negative existentials or other lexicalizations of negation break into the domain of standard negation
- Are there any language specific characteristics that trigger or halt the NEC
- The time duration of cyclical processes

The goal of this conference is to establish collaboration between scholars who are interested in the evolution of negation and in the interaction between special and standard negators.

Confirmed Participants:

Prof. Elly van Gelderen, U of Arizona
Prof. Johan van der Auwera, U of Antwerpen


For reasons of space the references mentioned above are listed here .
Linguistic Subfield: Historical Linguistics; Typology
LL Issue: 28.768

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