LINGUIST List 9.1836

Thu Dec 24 1998

Review: Forget et al. Negation and Polarity

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  1. Shravan Vasishth, Forget et al. Negation and Polarity.

Message 1: Forget et al. Negation and Polarity.

Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 08:17:04 -0500 (EST)
From: Shravan Vasishth <>
Subject: Forget et al. Negation and Polarity.

Danielle Forget, Paul Hirschbuehler, France Martineau and 
	Maria-Luisa Rivero. (eds) Negation and Polarity. Amsterdam:
	 John Benjamin, 1997. Pp. 365, USD 83.00 / NLG 166.00. 
	ISBN 90 272 3660 7 (Eur.)/1-55619-871-X (US) (alk. paper)

Reviewed by Shravan Vasishth, The Ohio State University.

This book is a collection of seventeen papers (selected from a 
total of twenty seven) presented at the conference, ``Negation: 
Syntax and Semantics'', held May 11-13, 1995, at the University 
of Ottawa, Canada. Two papers are in French, and the rest are 
in English. The papers are arranged alphabetically by author, and 
there are three very convenient indices towards the end of the 
book, of authors, terms and concepts, and languages and language 

The study of negation and polarity has gained importance in 
linguistics over the last several decades, perhaps because 
the issues raised by the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic aspects 
of negation and polarity directly affect linguistic theory as a 
whole. The present collection reflects the diverse and 
sophisticated approaches that have been brought to bear on this 
subject and is thus a valuable contribution to the field. In this 
review, for reasons of space, I will summarize and discuss articles 
by topic, focusing on some issues that have implications for 
linguistic theory in general.
A major theme in this collection is negative concord (NC).
The papers by Viviene Deprez, Liliane Haegeman, Daniel Valois, 
Paul Rowlett, Joao Peres, and Jacob Hoeksema all touch on various 
aspects of NC, and several take mutually conflicting positions on 
the subject. The syntax papers on NC presuppose some familiarity 
with GB syntax and in particular with Haegeman's Neg-criterion and 
the related Wh-criterion (see, e.g., Haegeman 1995 for details).

Regarding the semantics of N-words (these are words such as 
English `no-one' and its French equivalent `personne'), Joao Peres 
(``Extending the notion of negative concord'') argues for a unified 
view of NPIs and N-words as indefinites as argued for by Ladusaw 
(1992). Jack Hoeksema (``Negation and negative concord in Middle 
Dutch'') shows that evidence from Middle Dutch points to 
N-words being ambiguous between a negative-existential and 
existential reading. Both analyses converge towards Dowty's 
(1994) treatment of N-words as being ambiguous between a negative 
meaning and an existential interpretation.

Turning next to the several syntax papers on N-words, Viviene 
Deprez (``A non-unified analysis of negative concord'') presents 
data from French and Haitian Creole to show that Haegeman's 
Neg-criterion is redundant in accounting for NC, and that, 
following Ladusaw (1992), N-words are best treated as non-negative 
indefinite NPs. Liliane Haegeman (``The syntax of N-words and the 
Neg-criterion'') argues against Deprez's claim that N-words do not
have the NEG feature. Haegeman's refutation of Deprez's arguments, 
although convincing, would have been even more persuasive if she 
had discussed Haitian Creole and French (the languages Deprez bases 
her arguments on) rather than limiting herself principally to West 

Daniel Valois (``Neg-movement and Wh-movement'') explores another 
aspect of the Neg-criterion; he shows that in spite of the 
difference in behavior between N-words and Wh-traces, the 
Neg-criterion can account for N-words if one follows Haegeman 
(1995:234-269) in treating SpecNegP as both an A and A' position. 

Paul Rowlett (``Jesperson, Negative Concord, and A'-binding'') 
attempts to provide a purely syntactic account of NC and non-NC 
languages by adopting and modifying Haegeman's and Progovac's 
proposals. His main claim is that if one recasts the Spec-Head 
agreement requirement as a weaker Spec-Head compatibility 
requirement, NPI and negative quantifier licensing can be accounted
for in terms of A'-binding. This paper, although very insightful in
its treatment of data from European languages, faces the problem 
that the analysis would be hard to motivate cross-linguistically. 
For example, reliance on functional projections (FP) such as NegP 
becomes difficult when one considers languages like Japanese, 
Korean, and Hindi, where the presence of FPs in general is not 
well-motivated (see. e.g., Kim and Sag 1995, Sells 1995, 
Fukushima 1998). But even if one were to allow the functional 
projection NegP in Hindi (contra Mahajan 1988), according to 
Rowlett's analysis the Hindi negation marker would be predicted to 
appear in the Spec-NegP position since Hindi is a non-NC language. 
However, existing research (e.g., Dwivedi 1991, Vasishth 1997, and 
Bhandari 1998) has shown that if NegP were present in Hindi, the 
negation marker would have to be in Neg_o position, not Spec-NegP. 
Given the importance of cross-linguistic validity in GB syntax, 
this makes Rowlett's analysis somewhat harder to justify. 

If functional projections are indeed under-motivated in syntax, 
the two papers summarized below are also open to the same 
criticism. M. Teresa Espinal (``Non-negative negation and 
Wh-exclamatives'') presents a syntactic analysis of the licensing 
of non-negative or expletive negation in exclamative wh-sentences 
(such as `How many people did you not deceive in your youth!'). In 
order to account for various facts about exclamatives, Espinal 
posits a functional projection, Int(ensifier)P, above CP, to which 
the wh-element must raise at LF. A licensing condition, logical 
absorption (Espinal 1992), accounts for negation being expletive in 
exclamatives: briefly, an abstract intensifier operator which 
lexically selects negation absorbs Neg in the configuration

[... Op [C [ ... Neg ...]]]

if Minimality is respected and no logical operator intervenes between
OP and Neg at LF.

Aafke Hulk and Ans van Kemenade (``Negation as a reflex of 
clause structure'') look at negation in Old English (OE) and Old 
French (OF) and conclude that negation occupies a fixed position 
(Spec, NegP). They assume a clause structure as follows:

C AgrS Neg T (AgrO) V

Observing that a pronominal subject appears to the left of the
OE negative `na' while a DP subject appears to its right, they 
propose a more articulated phrase structure where a functional 
projection (FP) dominates NegP, Spec-FP providing a landing site 
for the pronominal subject. Providing a separate position for 
pronouns allows us to treat these not as clitics, as previous 
analyses (Pintzuk 1993) have done, but as ``weak pronouns'' 
(Cardinaletti and Starke (1994)). This overcomes the problems with 
Pintzuk's analysis, which presupposes that Spec-IP is a possible 
topic position. A similar analysis is proposed for OF, based on 
the distribution of `ne' and `pas' with respect to the finite verb 
and the pronominal subject. As in OE, the verb moves to F of the 
new functional projection FP, this movement later being lost in 
both languages. 

The status of functional projections in syntax is 
addressed rather decisively in two papers. Abeille and Godard 
(``The syntax of French Negative Adverbs'') convincingly argue that 
adverbs (including negative adverbs like `pas') in French do not 
support verb movement and functional projections, contra Emonds 
(1978) and Pollock (1989). They propose that adverbs are either 
adjoined to VP or occur at the same level as a complement of the 
VP. This view is formally treated within the Head-driven phrase 
structure (HPSG) framework (Pollard and Sag 1994). Denis Bouchard 
(``The syntax of sentential negation in French and English'') also 
argues that functional projections are undermotivated; however, he 
relies on his own version of Chomsky's Minimalist program (1995) to 
account for the facts. Bouchard argues that the recent checking 
based model (Chomsky 1995) has an element of redundancy since 
functional properties appear both as heads in the syntactic 
structure and as parts of a lexical item. He proposes an 
alternative `minimal' account where functional projections are 
unnecessary. Briefly, he assumes that (i) inflectional verbs are 
composite lexical items, with no additional functional categories, 
(ii) tense is in the highest projection of the sentence, (iii) the 
sentential negation marker must scope over as much of the sentence 
as possible, but not over tense. Bouchard's proposal is very
attractive, but it would have been helpful (at least to this 
reviewer) if he had specified what a parameter is in the theory. 
In the Minimalist Program, a parameter is apparently ``a choice of 
STRONG/WEAK feature on a functional head'' (Fodor 1998:3). In the 
above account, we have a parametric choice on the accessing of 
composite heads: French allows the relevant parts of a composite V 
to be accessed part by part, but English never allows part by part 
access. This notion of parametrization may turn out to be 
problematic in Bouchard's theory.

The articles discussed next are somewhat specialized; they deal 
with aspects of negation that presuppose some familiarity with the 
relevant literature. 

One paper, on the semantics and pragmatics of `only' by 
Laurence Horn (``Negative polarity and the Dynamics of Vertical 
Inference'') is an earlier version of his arguments concerning 
`only' in (Horn 1996). In the present paper, the principal 
question addressed is: what are the relationships between a 
sentence like (1)a and (1b),(1c)? (Note: the utterance (1a) has 
nothing to do with the line appearing in the well-known poem by 
Joyce Kilmer; the sentence here has its usual compositional 

(1)a. Only God can make a tree.
 b. God can make a tree.
 c. No one distinct from God can make a tree.

While it is clear that (1a) entails (1c), the relationship 
between (1a) and its ``prejacent'' (1b) is more controversial. Is 
this relation one of entailment, semantic presupposition, pragmatic 
presupposition, or possibly conversational implicature? He 
concludes that (1b) is neither entailed, nor presupposed, but 
merely the ``...existential import of the corresponding 
universal...'' of (1a): ``...if no mortal can make a tree and the 
set of tree-makers is non-null, then the truth of the prejacent 
follows. No specific rule--entailment, presupposition, or 
implicature--need be invoked to derive [(1b)] from [(1a)]'' (p. 168).
In addition, Horn also presents several arguments favoring the 
view that `only' is downward monotone, which is consistent with its 
NPI-licensing property. In this connection, and for the latest on 
a long-standing dispute between Horn, Jay Atlas, and others, about 
the (non-)downward monotone nature of `only' and its status as an 
NPI licensor, also see Atlas (1997). 

Eugene Rohrbaugh explores the relationship between focus and NPI 
licensing (``The role of focus in the licensing and
interpretation of negative polarity items''). He provides
impressive arguments against the well-known treatment by Kadmon and 
Landman (1993) of polarity sensitive (PS) and free-choice (FC) 
`any'. Rohrbaugh claims that it is the focus or intonational 
contour on `any' that is responsible for the widening effect 
discussed by Kadmon and Landman. He claims that a crucial 
difference between the two kinds of `any' (FC and PS) is that focus 
plays a role in the licensing FC `any' but not PS `any'. 
Interestingly, this analysis would predict correctly that in Hindi 
NPI `any', `koi-(bhii)', the focus particle `bhii' is optional, 
while in its homophonous PPI counterpart it is obligatory 
(Bhatia 1995:27), and that minimizers in Hindi obligatorily require 
focus particles in order to get the NPI interpretation (Vasishth 
1998c). It would have been helpful, though, if Rohrbaugh had 
spelled out his analysis in detail rather than simply stating that 
focus plays a crucial role in NPI licensing.

Michael Isreal explores a central issue relating to NPI licensing 
(``Scalar model of polarity sensitivity and aspectual 
operators''): why do NPIs exist at all? He summarizes his theory of 
polarity licensing as follows: ``Polarity in general is a matter of 
scalar inferencing and polarity items are just scalar operators: 
the proper expression of their lexical semantics depends on the 
availability of a properly constructed scalar model'' (p. 217). 
In this article, he assumes two scales, a q(uantificational) scale 
and an i(nformational) scale. Propositions can be high or low on 
the q- and i-scale. The q-scale value refers to the proposition's 
position on the scale; a q-value of a proposition is high when the 
asserted or text proposition (TP) is located higher on a 
contextually determined scale compared to some alternative context 
proposition (CP), and low if the TP is lower. The i-scale value 
refers to its (relative) informativeness, where informativeness is 
defined as follows: if the TP entails the CP, the i-value is high, 
and low if the CP entails the TP. 

An example of how this works is the minimizer `a wink' (minimizers 
are expressions which, if they appear in a positive context, denote 
a minimal quantity, and in negative contexts denote ``the absence of
a minimal quantity, and hence the presence of no quantity at all''
(Horn 1989:400)).

(2)a. Marianne didn't sleep a wink that night.
 b.*Marianne slept a wink that night.

As an Emphatic NPI (see classification given below), this minimizer 
has a low q-value and a high i-value when it is felicitous; a low 
q-value because it indicates a minimal quantity, and a high i-value 
because the TP `M didn't sleep the smallest amount' entails the CP 
`M didn't sleep a normal amount.' (2b) is ungrammatical because the 
CP, `M slept a normal amount', entails the TP, `M slept the 
smallest amount', resulting in a low i-value. 

Israel posits four types of polarity items, Emph(atic) and 
Understat(ed) NPIs and PPIs (an example of the first is given above):

 Emph NPIs Understat NPIs Emph PPIs Understat PPIs 

q-scale low high high low 
i-scale high low high low
This analysis is applied to apparently non-quantificational
aspectual operators, such as `yet', `already', `still', and
`anymore', which are also treated as scalar operators. 

For a more fully worked out version of Israel's research, the reader
should consult (Israel 1996). Although Israel's treatment is 
extremely insightful, its cross-linguistic validity would
be enhanced further once it is extended to account for NPIs in 
languages like Hindi and Japanese, where `focus particles' crucially 
affect the behavior of NPIs (see Vasishth 1998a and 1998b). 

Elizabeth Pearce (``Negation and indefinites in Maori'') addresses 
the problem of NPI licensing in Maori, a VSO language. She follows 
Progovac's (1994) binding approach to account for the salient
facts. The reader may find it useful to consult Horn and Lee's 
(1995) critique of Progovac's theory in this regard.

Jacques Moeschler (``La negation comme expression procedurale'') 
addresses a central problem relating to metalinguistic negation 
(MN): is MN part of a pragmatic account that recognizes 
truth-conditionality (Horn 1989) or is truth-conditionality to be 
excluded (Ducrot 1972)? Moeschler develops Carston's (1996) 
analysis of MN, which is itself based on Relevance Theory (Sperber 
and Wilson 1986). He proposes a contextually driven approach 
to MN: negation provides instructions for building a context 
necessary for interpreting utterances, and external and 
metalinguistic negation give rise to different contexts. This is 
implemented as an algorithmic procedure that allows us to give a 
uniform account of the various kinds of MN, as presented below.

1. If there is a proposition P' such that (not(P), P') corresponds 
to the formal structure of the phrase, 
 1.1 If (P --> not(P')), then conclude not(P) --> P';
 1.1.1 If (P' --> not(P)) then you have ``negation abaissante'' 
 1.1.2 If (P' --> P) then you have ``negation majorante''
 1.2 If (E(P) --> not(E(P'))), conclude (not(E(P)) --> E(P')),
 (echoic negation)
 1.3 If (not(P) --> Q) (P --> Q) and (P' --> not(Q)), conclude
 (not(P) --> not(Q)) (presuppositional negation)
else go to 2.
2. Find an available proposition Q:
 2.1 If Q is available in the `cotext':
 2.1.1 If (Q --> P) and not(P), conclude (P and not(P)) and 
 nullify not(P) (concessive negation, polemic)
 2.1.2 If (Q --> P) and not(P) then conclude not(Q) and 
 nullify Q (refutative negation, polemic)
 2.2 If Q is available in the `co-text':
 2.2.1 From (P --> Q) and not(P), conclude not(Q) (inferential
 negation, descriptive)

An example of how this works is the case of the `more-than' reading 
of negation (his term is ``negation majorante''). Consider the 
following instance of ``negation majorante'', which is a kind
of MN (in this connection, see also Horn 1989:204):

 Max is not tall, he is gigantic.
By (1), we have P=Max is tall and P'=Max is gigantic. By (1.1), 
since (P --> not(P')), by invited inference, we can conclude 
(Not(P) --> P'). By (1.1.1), since P' --> P, this is ``negation 
majorante''. Horn points out (personal communication) that the 
Relevance-theoretic position that Moeschler follows Carston (1996)
in supporting, is in fact quite close to Horn's. Carston's 
forthcoming paper (1999) also apparently makes this point. 

To conclude, we have not been able to look closely at each article 
in this collection (indeed, I have not discussed some articles 
here), but, clearly, many of these articles address important 
issues of general linguistic interest, and several shed new light 
on various aspects of negation and polarity. This volume should thus 
prove to be an important source of reference for linguists. 


Note: The references given below are also available in BibTeX 
format from the following ftp site:

Atlas, Jay David, 1996. `Only' Noun Phrases, Pseudo-Negative 
 Generalized Quantifiers, Negative Polarity Items, and 
 Monotonicity. Journal of Semantics, Vol. 13, pp. 265--329.

Bhandari, Rita, 1998. On the role of tense for negative polarity 
 item licensing, Paper presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting 
 of the Linguistic Society of America, New York City.

Bhatia, Tej K., 1995. Negation in South Asian Languages.
 Indian Institute of Language Studies, Patiala, India.

Carston, Robyn, 1996. Metalinguistic Negation and Echoic Use.
 Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 25, pp. 309--330.

Carston, Robyn, (to appear). Negation, `Presupposition', and 
 Metarepresentation: A Response to Noel Burton-Roberts. 
 Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 35, pp. ??--??

Chomsky, Noam, 1995. The Minimalist Program, MIT Press, 
 Cambridge, MA. 

Dowty, David, 1994. The role of Negative Polarity and Concord 
 Marking in Natural Language Reasoning. MS, Ohio State 

Ducrot, Oswald, 1972. Dire et ne pas dire. Hermann, Paris.

Dwivedi, Veena. 1991. Negation as a functional projection in Hindi.
 WECOL 4 Proceedings, edited by K. Hunt, T. Perry, and V. 
 Samiian, pp. 88--100.

Emonds, Joseph E., 1978. The Verbal Complex V'-V in French. 
 Linguistic Inquiry. Vol. 9, pp. 151--175.

Fodor, Janet Jean, 1998. What is a Parameter? Annual Meeting of the 
 LSA, New York City.

Fukushima, Kazuhiko, 1998. Compositional, Inherent and Frozen 
 Negation: Lexicalism versus Functional Categories.
 The Proceedings of the Salford Conference on Negation.

Haegeman, Liliane, 1995. The Syntax of Negation. CUP, Cambridge, UK.

Horn, Laurence R., 1989. A Natural History of Negation. UCP, Chicago.

Horn, Laurence R. and Young-Suk Lee, 1995. Progovac on Polarity.
 Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 31, pp. 401--424.

Horn, Laurence R., 1996. Exclusive Company: Only and the Dynamics 
 of Vertical Inference. Journal of Semantics, Vol. 13, pp. 

Israel, Michael, 1996. Polarity Sensitivity as Lexical Semantics,
 Linguistics and Philosophy, Vol. 19, pp. 619--666.

Kadmon, Nirit and Fred Landman, 1993. Any. Linguistics and 
 Philosophy, Vol. 16. pp. 353--422.

Kim, Jongbok and Ivan A. Sag, 1995. English and French Negation: A 
 Lexicalist Perspective, MS, Stanford, CA.

Ladusaw, William A., 1992. Expressing Negation. SALT II Proceedings,
 edited by Chris Barker and David Dowty. Ohio State University
 Working Papers in Linguistics No. 40.

Mahajan, Anoop Kumar. 1988. Word Order and Negation in Hindi.
 MS, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Pollard, Carl and Ivan A. Sag, 1994. Head-driven Phrase Structure 
 Grammar, UCP, Chicago.

Pollock, Jean-Yves, 1989. Verb Movement, Universal Grammar, and the
 Structure of IP. Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 20, pp. 365--424.

Progovac, Ljiljana, 1994. Negative and Positive Polarity, CUP, 
 Cambridge, UK.

Sells, Peter. 1995. Korean and Japanese Morphology from a Lexical 
 Perspective. Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 26, pp. 277--325.

Vasishth, Shravan, 1997. The NEG-Criterion and Negative Polarity 
 Licensing in Hindi and English. Osaka University Journal of 
 Language and Culture, Vol 6, pp. 159--176.
 Available by ftp:

Vasishth, Shravan, 1998a. Boolean properties of focus particles and 
 NPIs in Japanese. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the
 Linguistic Society of America, New York City.
 Available by ftp:

Vasishth, Shravan, 1998b. Monotonicity constraints on negative 
 polarity in Hindi. OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, Vol. 51,
 Ohio State University, edited by Mary Bradshaw, Dave Odden, 
 and Derek Wyckoff, pp. 147-166.
 Available by ftp: 

Vasishth, Shravan, 1998c. Focus Particles and Negative Polarity in 
 Hindi, The Proceedings of the Salford Conference on Negation.

Short biography of the reviewer:

Shravan Vasishth a (2nd year) graduate student in the Linguistics 
department of the Ohio State University. His research interests 
include the formal syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of word order, 
which subsumes issues relating to negation and polarity. 
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