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Review of  La négation dans les langues romanes

Reviewer: Pierre Larrivée
Book Title: La négation dans les langues romanes
Book Author: Franck Floricic
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 19.2344

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EDITOR: Floricic, Franck
TITLE: La Négation dans les Langues Romanes
SERIES: Lingvisticae Investigationes Supplementa Series 26
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2007

Pierre Larrivee, Aston University

Formerly at Toulouse and now at the Sorbonne, Franck Floricic, the editor of
this collection, is a specialist of Romance languages who has published on an
extensive series of issues concerning negation in varieties of Italian and in
French. The stated objective of this volume to further the understanding of
issues raised by negation in Romance languages is pursued by the ten refereed
papers selected from the 2006 Toulouse Journees Romanes meeting on the theme of
Romance negation. Their contents will be summarized here before an overall
assessment of the volume is offered below. [All accents have been removed to
make the text accessible.]

The first paper, by Rosa Medina Granda (Occitano antiguo ''ge(n)s'': Su ausencia
en ciertos contextos negativos, 1-27), deals with the behavior of Old Occitan
''gens''. It follows the expected path from a marker of ontological class (< latin
''genus'') to an ''Indefinite quantifier''. Unexpected distribution of the item is
revealed through a study of troubadour texts, where absence is found in
subordinates of a negated main clause, as well as with modals and inherently
negative verbs. The speculation is that both contexts already have a negative
polarity that makes ''gens'' unnecessary; it is proposed that the use of ''gens''
would actually turn the negative polarity of the verbs to a positive polarity.
Whatever the merit the speculations may have, the article draws attention to the
importance of progressive co-occurrence in language change (as shown
convincingly by Ingham 2000, for instance).

Anna Orlandini and Paolo Poccetti (Il y a ''nec'' et ''nec'': Trois valeurs de la
negation en latin et dans les langues de l'Italie ancienne, 29-47) deal with the
uses of ''nec'' in Old Italian. This form conjoins the classical use as a
coordination, an archaic use as a coordinating sentence negation and a later
emphatic sentence negation usage. The emphatic use is considered derived from
the coordination usage, given shared formal status. The relation between
coordination and adverbial negation is further illustrated by Italic languages
Oscan and Umbrian that have for both functions a single form ''ne(i)p'' assumed to
come from *ne-kwe. The interpretative relation between coordination and emphatic
sentence negation is speculated to depend upon the fact that emphasis is a
pragmatic parameter illustrating enrichment attaching to coordination (where
''and'' can communicate both ''as well as'' and ''and then'').

The article by M. Teresa Espinal (Licensing expletive negation and negative
concord in Romance languages, 49-74) continues her long-standing consideration
of multiple negations in Catalan. A comparison is made between Catalan and
Spanish that includes dialectal and historical varieties. Unlike Catalan,
Spanish shows a strong subject/object asymmetry in the distribution of n-words.
That is because n-words occupy a different position in the preverbal and in the
postverbal DPs in Spanish, whereas they would have the same position in all
Catalan DPs. The potential of Catalan n-words for expletive and concord
interpretation is due to their dependency on a negative operator. A
non-veridical operator absorbs the negative trait of the n-word to produce an
expletive reading, the concord interpretation is licensed by an anti-veridical
operator, following the notions developed by Giannakidou (1998).

Anamaria Falaus (Le paradoxe de la double negation dans une langue a concordance
negative stricte, 75-97) deals with the dynamics of concord and double negation
readings in Romanian. Both readings are available to multiple n-word sentences
equivalent to ''Nobody loves no one'', which may refer to a loveless world, or a
world in which everybody loves someone. As does Espinal, Falaus demonstrates
that the process of concord is independent from the nature of n-words. Concord
would involve n-words forming a complex polyadic quantifier in the style of de
Swart and Sag (2002); recursion forcing n-words to be interpreted separately
would bring about double negation.

Liliane Jagueneau (Negation simple et negation discontinue en occitan limousin,
99-116) provides a descriptive synchronic study of the use of postverbal
negation compared to the more formal embracing negation in the Occitan of
Limoges. Based on data from linguistic atlases, the various factors generally
considered for the use of ''ne'' are reviewed, and it comes as no surprise that
neither phonetic environment, nor the geographical distribution, nor the types
of interaction provide all the answers.

The paper by Franck Floricic and Francoise Mignon (Negation et reduplication
intensive en francais et en italien, 117-136) offers an analysis of reduplicated
negation ''No no'' and ''Non non'' in Italian and French. The sentential uses of
''No(n)'' are correlated to an anaphoric reading. Their reactive character
explains why the interjection use of ''No(n)!'' and its reduplication ''No(n)
no(n)'' are strictly found outside syntactic relationships (* Oui ou non non?, *
Je crois que non non), unlike the simple use of ''No(n)'' (Oui ou non?, Je crois
que non). Reduplicated ''No(n)'' is proposed to constitute a face-saving negation
rather than the stronger rejection that reduplication might have led one to
expect. The discursive contextualizations are clear and ideally suited to the
enunciative framework used, a popular French movement that insists on the
integration of discourse parameters to linguistic meaning.

It is a thoroughly Anglo-Saxon outlook that is adopted by Daniele Godard and
Jean-Marie Marandin (Aspects pragmatiques de la negation renforcee en italien,
137-160) in their study of emphatic negative constructions in Italian such as
''NIENTE non ho fatto'' (''I have done NOTHING''). These display a doubling of
preverbal negation that would normally result in double negation but that in
this case yield emphasis. Such cases are shown to occur with activated
propositions in the sense of Schwenter (2006), where the proposition is
accessible to the hearer through previous explicit mention (the previous example
as an answer to something like ''You seem to have done something strange to the
computer'') or inference. This notion used to account for the distribution of
''presuppositional'' negative markers such as Italian ''mica'' or Brazilian
Portuguese postverbal ''nao'' is usefully extended to the considered Italian
construction and formalized as a type of reprise-assertion within HPSG.
Available elsewhere in English, this important work heralds the possibility of
using a well-defined pragmatic notion to capture the constellation of emphasis
phenomena related to negation and other provinces of grammar.

Tine Van Hecke provides the reader with an interesting study of the old problem
of the relations between negation and deontic modalities (La negation de la
modalite deontique. Divergences et convergences entre francais, italien et
roumain, 161-176). She gives a clear sense of the competing hypotheses on the
basis of a limited yet representative list of references. The data is really of
contemporary French, despite occasional contemporary and historical
illustrations from Italian, Romanian and also Dutch. The use of web attested
examples leads to identify three main readings where negation scopes over the
modal: assertive (as in ''You don't have to come''), evaluative (''You don't have
to come to know what will be said''), epistemic (something like ''You don't have
to wait very long to get the answer''). These are notoriously difficult to pin
down, but the exploration of the contextual role of tenses and the illocutionary
dimension of dissuasions shows that a purely lexicalist approach will not do.

The last two papers are concerned with negative prefixes in French, which is
found in other Romance and Germanic languages. Helene Huot (La prefixation
negative en francais moderne, 177-203) looks at ''in-'' in the electronic version
of the dictionary ''Le Petit Robert''. The prefix is on the one hand compared to
sentence negation, which leads the contributor to propose that it attaches to
verbs; its focus would fall on peripheral aspectual and modal suffixes, and the
discussion therefore turns to uses with forms suffixed by ''-able''. A descriptive
proposal is made in a FrameNet framework, and former descriptive generalizations
are addressed.

It is specifically the behavior of words with both the suffix ''-able'' and the
negative prefix ''in-'' that is considered in the last paper from a team of
morphologists (Georgette Dal, Natalia Grabar, Stephanie Lignon, Francois Yvon,
Delphine Tribout et Clement Plancq, Les adjectifs en in-X-able en francais,
205-224). Their contribution is largely methodological, by discussing issues
relating to the exploration of a large press corpus supplemented by web
investigations. The descriptive contribution is uncontroversial: the application
of the negative prefix to ''-able'' suffixes evokes the non-satisfaction of
expected properties, and the point is emphasized that derived forms are not
necessarily sharing the interpretative properties of the base forms.

As far as edited volumes go, this constitutes a fairly coherent and well-rounded
one. It resists promoting any particular theoretical framework, although it does
present views from HPSG and the Minimalist Program. These are very much put to
the service of a better understanding of the issues raised by negation, and the
occurrence of these issues across papers is demonstrated by a brief look at the
useful notional index. The balance between the diachronic and synchronic is
kept, with an attempt to relate them in many papers. There is a good mix of
Romance languages studied, and while the language of the contributions is mainly
French, with one in Spanish and another in English, the monolingual reader can
get a gist of the contents through the summary in the introduction and the
abstracts at the end of the articles. On the whole, a reasonable knowledge is
displayed of the standard work in the field, given that no article can be
expected to cover a rather formidable bibliography (Larrivee 2004, which tries
to provide a complete reference list for work on the grammar of French negation
alone, has forty pages of references). Few typos were found to mar the collection.

The collection does present a more nuanced picture of the grammar of negation.
The discussions of 'emphasis' show how important it is for the grammar of
negation, and the suggestion is provided of capturing it through the promising
mechanism of activated propositions. Another notable contribution is the idea
that processes yielding double negation, negative concord and expletive readings
must be considered as distinct from the nature of n-words. While some have
proposed that n-words entering in concord relationships must be indefinite, the
fact that they can produce double negation must show that this couldn't (always)
be the case (Larrivee 2004). The point is echoed at different levels of
explicitness in the papers by Espinal, Falaus, and Godard and Marandin, although
an opportunity for cross-reference and discussion is lost.

The main criticism that could be levied against several contributions is the
very intuitive status of the generalizations proposed, when there are any. It is
commendable that the maze of observable co-occurrences and restrictions be
related to more general functionalities. The analogical correspondence between
facts and categories are not always formulated in a way that is testable and
transferable. This is not exclusively a problem of descriptive approaches, as
formal analyses are just as liable to similar analogical reasoning. The
necessity to define notions and have diagnostics for their application is
illustrated by some of the work presented here.

A related issue is that of the object of generalization. The aim seems to be to
describe what is and not what is possible, and that is demonstrated by the
reliance of some contributions on extensive corpora. Of course, it is difficult
to establish (im)possibilities in historical or dialectal varieties. Yet, one
would have thought that the point of typology applied to one particular language
family is precisely to detect what is done in one variety that isn't in others.
Of course, it is difficult to achieve an adequate description of facts, which is
very much wanting in theoretical and empirical studies. But surely, a good
description should tell one what should not be found, would it be only because
this would help to sort between competing explanations. That these are not
discussed very much at all, as shown by the virtual absence of starred examples,
is something of a disappointment.

Nonetheless, the collection fulfils its promises. It draws attention to some
novel data, raises the profile of some key notions, and gives a finer-grained
view of issues such as the nature n-words. Specialists of the grammar of
negation and of Romance languages will no doubt find interest in this collection.

Giannakidou, Anastasia, 1998. _Polarity Sensitivity as (Non)veridical
Dependency_. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Ingham, Richard. 2000. Negation and OV order in Late Middle English. _Journal of
Linguistics_ 36, 13-38.

Larrivee, Pierre. 2004. _L'association negative : depuis la syntaxe jusqu'a
l'interpretation_. Geneve: Droz.

Martineau, France and Raymond Mougeon. 2003. Sociolinguistic research on the
origins of ''ne'' deletion in European and Quebec French. _Language_ 79,1, 118-152.

Schwenter, Scott A.. 2006. Fine-tuning Jespersen's cycle. In Betty J. Birner and
Gregory Ward (Eds) _Drawing the boundaries of meaning. Neo-Gricean studies in
honour of Laurence R. Horn_. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 327-344.

Swart, Henriette de and Ivan A. Sag. 2002. Negation and Negative Concord in
Romance. _Linguistics and Philosophy_ 25,4, 373-417.

Pierre Larrivee is a Senior Lecturer in French Linguistics at Aston University
(Birmingham, UK). The author of three monographs and a series of articles on
negation, he is currently the Principal Investigator for the International
Network ''Cycles of Grammaticalization''