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LINGUIST List 18.1143

Sun Apr 15 2007

Qs: Existential Constructions; Emphatic embracing negation

Editor for this issue: Kevin Burrows <kevinlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Ljuba Veselinova, Existential Constructions
        2.    Hilary Barnes, Emphatic embracing negation

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Message 1: Existential Constructions
Date: 12-Apr-2007
From: Ljuba Veselinova <ljubaling.su.se>
Subject: Existential Constructions

In English (as well as other languages I am familiar with) existence can be
expressed by a special 'existential construction' as in (i) below or by a
clause with the verb 'exist' as in (ii)

(i) There is such a thing as non-alcoholic beer
(ii) Non-alcololic beer exists

(i) represents the 'normal'/frequent/unmarked way to express existence
whereas (ii) can be shown to be marked in many ways: it is less frequently
used, functionally restricted etc.

When grammars report on existential constructions, typically constructions
of the type of (i) are presented. I would like to check in what other
languages there is marked construction like (ii) above used to express

The languages I know are Bulgarian, Swedish, French and Russian. I would
very much appreciate data from other languages.

Thanks a lot in advance! I will post a summary if there is enough interest.

All good wishes,

Linguistic Field(s): Typology

Message 2: Emphatic embracing negation
Date: 12-Apr-2007
From: Hilary Barnes <hab183psu.edu>
Subject: Emphatic embracing negation

Non-canonical or emphatic negation, as exemplified in (1), implies a
correction on the hearer’s presuppositions that something happened when it,
in fact, did NOT happen.

(1) I did NOT see Mary.
English uses a special intonation to add this meaning. Other languages
(some dialects of Spanish, Catalan and Veneto, among others) use embracing
negation, which consists of the repetition of the negative marker at the
end of the clause. Consider the following examples in Spanish, Veneto and

(2) Spanish: embracing negation
No lo vi no.
NEG it see.1SG.PRET. NEG
“I did NOT see it.”

(3) Veneto: embracing negation
No só a qué ora que i
neg know-1sg at what time that SCL-3pl
nda vía no.
go-3pl there neg

“I do NOT know what time they are going.”
(4) Catalan: embracing negation
No l’ he vist no, a la meva
neg cl.3sg. see 1sg.pres.pft. neg. to the mygermana. sister

“I have NOT seen my sister.”
The repetition of the negative marker at the end (embracing negation) is
used to convey the meaning of a non-canonical negation. We are interested
in the extension of this phenomenon as well as its development. Thus, we
would like to know:
(a) the languages where this structure is present,
(b) the meaning of this structure; is it emphatic ?,
(c) the possibility of omitting the first negative marker,
(d) if the language is in contact with any other language.

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

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