LINGUIST List 12.1851

Wed Jul 18 2001

Sum: Negation in Contemporary French

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Bruno Estigarribia Fioravanti, Negation in Contemporary French

Message 1: Negation in Contemporary French

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 00:08:51 +0200
From: Bruno Estigarribia Fioravanti <>
Subject: Negation in Contemporary French

 Hello colleagues of the list, 

 I couple of weeks ago I posted a query on bibliography about 
double and simple negation in contemporary French. Here's the summary. 
Thanks to all who responded, your help was greatly appreciated.
 Here's my query again :

>> I'm currently writing a brief account of negation in contemporary 
French and I'm having trouble finding articles and/or >>books that 
aren't dated or that provide some original enlightenment. My claim would 
be, basically, that we need to >>abandon the idea of "ne" dropping to 
explain the different surface forms of negation. Instead, one could 
contend, for >>instance, that the basic negation is a simple, postponed 
one, and that one has to account for the appearance of "ne", not >>for 
its "deletion".
>> It may lead nowhere, but perhaps it's an idea worth examining.
>> I'll summarize. Thanks to everyone.

 And here are the answers. Again, thanks ever so much.

 Francois Lareau:

Je ne sais pas si c'est propre seulement au francais quebecois,
mais, au moins dans cette variete, je ne peux meme pas imaginer une
phrase ou le "ne" apparaEEt (meme si je viens d'ecrire "ne" deux
fois! C'evidemment, on ne les prononce pas). Le seul contexte que je
peux imaginer ou on pourrait etre tentede voir un "ne" est: "il
n'en a pas", qu'on prononce /innapa/ (avec un double /n/). Mais on dit
aussi pour "il en a" /inna/, donc ce double /n/ n'a rien a voir avec
la negation.

Ceci dit, je n'ai fait aucune recherche serieuse sur le sujet, je vous
donne un avis de locuteur plutot que de linguiste.

Bien a vous,
Francois Lareau


 Pierre Larrivee:

Je n'ai pas de reponse directe a votre hypothese; un auteur a
consulter est certainement Hugues Peters, qui a defendu recemment dans
le cadre minimaliste le caractere subsidiaire de ne; je ne suis pas
d'accord avec son point de vue, mais il l'illustre bien.

Peut-etre par ailleurs parmi les quelques ecrits que j'ai commis sur
la negation y aurait-il des choses qui puissent vous interesser? Je
vous renvoie a la bibliographie choisie sur ma page web ( ) , il me fera plaisir de
vous envoyer copie d'un travail ou l'autre.

Meilleures saluations collegiales,

Pierre Larrivee


 Theo Vennemann:

I think your view of the matter is correct. You are dealing with the
final step of rule inversion: loss of an inverse rule. Cf. Lingua 29
(1972), 9-242 on "Rule Inversion", and "Language change as
language improvement", in Charles Jones, ed., Historical linguistics:
Problems and perspectives. London (Longman), 1993, 319-344, there pp.
335-342 on the development of the bracing negation.

Best wishes,
Theo Vennemann.
3 July 01


 John Koontz:

Without having any particular reference in mind, I would suggest
looking at the literature on the English negative, long since "X not"
from earlier "ne X not."

You might also look for a general literature on the typology or
diachrony of negatives. Again I have no specific references in mind,
other than the usual standard works on typology, but I work with a
language family (Siouan) in which negatives are normally enclitic
(cf., e.g., Dakotan), but some languages have fixed or regular
preposed particles or proclitics that pair with these (Winnebago,
Biloxi, Mandan). Unfortunately, we don't have any diachronic data
bearing on this, apart from comparative evidence. Some changes have
occurred in documented fashion in the Siouan languages in the
historical period, but not these.

For what it's worth, the Siouan negative enclitics seem to be more or
less cognate, though subject to considerable analogical modification
in some cases, but the proclitics are not. There is some possibility
that the enclitics may be historically primarily emphatic or
contrastive in meaning, and thus only secondarily associated with
negative marking, but this is perhaps not relevant to your situation,
though it might help explain how, if the tendency is to evolve from
proclitic to circumfixed to enclitic, it is the enclitics that are
cognate in this case. However, the location of the primary negative
marker may be different in Siouan from "General Western European,"
since the Siouan languages tend strongly to SOV word order.

John Koontz


 Marc Picard:

Vous devriez pouvoir trouver quelque chose d'utile dans le bouquin 

Ayres-Bennett, Wendy and Janice Carruthers with Rosalind
Temple (01) Studies in the Modern French Language:
Problems and Perspectives, Longman, paperback, xix,
406 pp. (includes Notes and Indexes)

Chapter 11 centers around negations. After a brief discussion of the
terminology, the authors study the scope of negation (total or
sentential negation) along with the constraints on negative raising in
French (especially the verbs allowing negative raising). They then
focus on whether 'ne...que' (only) and the so- called expletive 'ne'
should be analyzed as negative constructions. They do so by showing
differences between these two constructions and negative
constructions. This chapter concludes with an analysis of the loss of
'ne' and the consequent marking of negation by 'pas' alone. This is
undertaken both from a historical point of view and synchronically,
through the analysis of how syntactic, phonetic, semantic, lexical,
stylistic, and demographic factors influence the retention of 'ne.'


 Dr. Jean-Marc Dewaele:

Cher collegue,

Voici quelques references:

Coveney, A. (1996). Variability in spoken French: A sociolinguistic 
study of interrogation and negation, Exeter: Elm Bank.
Dewaele, J.-M. (1992). L'omission du ne dans deux styles oraux 
d'interlangue francaise. Interface. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7, 
Dewaele, J.-M. & Regan, V. a paraetre). MaEEtriser la norme 
sociolinguistique en interlangue francaise: le cas de l'omission 
variable de ne. Journal of French Language Studies.
Ashby, W. (1981). The loss of the negative particle ne in French: A 
syntactic change in progress. Language, 57, 674-687.
Ashby, W. (01). Un nouveau regard sur la chute du ne en francais 
parletourangeau: s'agit-il d'un changment en cours? Journal of French 
Language Studies, 11, 1-22.
Regan, V. (1995). The acquisition of sociolinguistic native speech 
norms: effects of a year abroad on second language learners of French. 
Dans B.F. Freed (dir.), Second language acquisition in a study abroad 
context. (pp. 245-267). Philadelphie: Benjamins.
Regan, V. (1996). Variation in French interlanguage: A longitudinal 
study of sociolinguistic competence. Dans R. Bayley & D.R. Preston 
(dir.), Second language acquisition and linguistic variation, (pp. 
177-1). Philadelphie: Benjamins.
Rehner, K., & Mougeon, R. (1999). Variation in the spoken French of 
immersion students: To ne or not to ne, that is the sociolinguistic 
question. Canadian Modern Language Review, 56, 124-154.

Bien cordialement,

Dr. Jean-Marc Dewaele
French Deptm
Birkbeck College, University of London


Thanks to everyone again. Your references and comments proved very 

Bruno Estigarribia Fioravanti
UniversiteParis V-ReneDescartes-Sorbonne
Departement de Linguistique generale et appliquee
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