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Review of  Negation and Polarity: Syntactic and Semantic Perspectives

Reviewer: Federica DaMilano
Book Title: Negation and Polarity: Syntactic and Semantic Perspectives
Book Author: Laurence R Horn Yasuhiko Kato
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Issue Number: 12.2571

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Horn, Laurence R., Yasuhiko Kato, ed. (2000) Negation and Polarity:
Syntactic and Semantic Perspectives. Oxford University Press, paperback
ISBN: 0-19-823874-6, ix+271 pp.

Federica Da Milano, Department of Linguistics, University of Pavia,

The book is an edited collection of papers by different authors about a
central feature of language and cognition: negation. The book exemplifies
all the main approaches to its subject: syntactic, pragmatic, semantic
and cognitive. Horn and Kato have solicited new contributions by
prominent senior specialists on negation and negative polarity.

The Introduction (Laurence R. Horn and Yasuhiko Kato) situates the
collected studies within the overall investigation of the grammar and
meaning of natural language negation. The editors also provide brief
overviews of the state of the art in the syntax of negation and in the
study of negative polarity, giving importance, for current works in this
topic, to two important monographs, Jespersen (1917), with the notion of
Jespersen's cycle and Klima (1964), with his generative point of

1. Negative Preposing, Negative Inversion and the Split CP (Liliane

Liliane Haegeman's contribution concerns the syntax of sentential
negation in English and other languages within the theory of Principles
and Parameters.

First, Haegeman presents a summary of her earlier work on the syntax of
negation, in which the main point is the discussion of the NEG-criterion
(Haegeman and Zanuttini 1991; Haegeman 1995): analogously to the
WH-criterion, she develops the NEG-criterion. Then, she considers the
fine structure of Rizzi's split CP hypothesis (1997) and she
applies it to the domains of negative inversion, negative preposing and
their interaction.

The examples considered show the contrast between preposed negative
phrases that trigger inversion (With no job would she be happy) and those
that do not (With no job she would be happy); among Haegeman's
results are firm theoretical foundations for distinguishing the two
processes of focalization and topicalization: she proposes that the
preposing of negation with inversion leading to sentential negation is an
instance of focalization, while the preposing of negation without
inversion and leading to constituent negation is an instance of

This contrast is not restricted to English; Haegeman's contribution
analyses also two other languages: West Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, and

2. Interpretive Asymmetries of Negation (Yasuhiko Kato)

This contribution addresses some of the same inversion data examined by
Haegeman and pursues a unified theory of sentential negation and NPI
licensing within the framework of Minimalist syntax (Chomsky 1995). His
arguments are based on comparative data from English and Japanese,
languages that display a set of asymmetries of negation.

The first example of asymmetries is the contrast between sentential and
constituent negation (see Haegeman above) in English and Japanese; the
second case concerns the distribution of negative polarity items in the
two languages.

The author argues that these two sets of asymmetries, which are seemingly
unrelated, follow from a unified theory of interacting principles, where
basic notions of c-command, closeness, and feature-sharing play essential
role. From a theoretical point of view, the analysis is dependent upon
the bare-theoretic conception of structure-building and the notion of
interpretable formal features (Chomsky 1994, 1995).

3. Coordination, C-Command, and 'Logophoric' N-words
(Ljiljana Progovac)

The paper analyses the cases where the principles of grammar, formulated
in terms of c-command, fail to predict the distribution of
'n-words' (e.g. Italian niente 'nothing') in
negative-concord languages. The focus is on the unexpected behaviour of
n-word licensing in coordinate and adjoined structures: a negative
quantifier in the first conjunct cannot license an NPI in the second
conjunct, although it seems that different approaches to coordination
predict that the first conjunct c-commands the second.

Progovac refers to the second anomaly in the licensing of NPIs as
'logophoric' use of NPIs, in analogy to similar use of

One basic claim of the paper is that n-words in negative concord
languages are subject to essentially the same principles and constraints
as reflexives.

4. Negative Polarity Items: Triggering, Scope, and C-Command (Jack

This paper also analyses the role of syntactic conditions in the
licensing of NPIs, but his approach is quite different from that of
Progovac. He presents a set of empirical arguments for the conclusion
that the scope of negation cannot be defined in terms of a
configurational notion like c-command but must be semantically derived.

In this article, the author also reviews the major issues in the study of
negative polarity items: the first serious analysis of this linguistic
phenomenon could be, in the author's opinion, when Lees and Klima
started to explore the distribution of the English indefinite pronouns
some and any in transformational terms: just noting that
'any' prefers negative sentences to their affirmative
counterparts is only the first step in a long series.

5. Pick a Theory (Not Just Any Theory). Indiscriminatives and the
Free-Choice Indefinite (Laurence R. Horn)

Laurence R. Horn uses metaphors to show the role of negation in different
context: 'the dark light of negation ... often plays the role of
lexico-semantic tweezers'.

First, Horn argues that while 'not only' is inherently
presuppositional and optionally scalar in nature, 'not just'
is not-presuppositional but obligatorily scalar; then, the author pursues
the metaphor, moving on to an examination of the 'other fork of the
tweezers', applying the scalar nature of '(not) just'
to the analysis of 'any'.

The question is whether the negative polarity 'any' of
'I didn't see anyone' and the free-choice
'any' of 'Anyone can whistle' represent distinct
lexical items (typically treated as existential and universal operators
respectively) or different uses of a single operator.

The author presents a history of the two positions in the
'perennial how-many-anys' debate from the starting point
constituted by the conflict between Augustus De Morgan and Sir William
Hamilton of Edinburgh, a century and a half ago. The paper is a very
detailed examination of the diagnostics that variously distinguishes and
unites the two 'anys'; at the end of his work, Horn concludes
that both 'anys' are fundamentally non-quantificational
indefinites that incorporate an indiscriminative end-of-scale even-type
meaning; it is this indiscriminative meaning that is negated in the
'not just any' construction.

6. The Force of Negation in Wh Exclamatives and Interrogatives (Paul
Portner and Raffaella Zanuttini)

This paper considers a particular case of negation: the so-called
expletive negation (or pleonastic negation, paratactic negation). This is
the case of exclamatives: when an exclamative contains an instance of
negation, the semantic force of the negative marker seems to be lost.

In this paper, the data come primarily from Paduan, a northern Italian
dialect, because for the authors it is interesting to study this language
in connection with expletive negation.

The authors demonstrate that the distribution and interpretation of
expletive negation can only be properly treated with reference to the
interplay of CP structure with the semantic and pragmatic factors of
factivity, scalar predication and conventional implicature.

7. Thetic and Categorical, Stage and Individual, Weak and Strong
(William A. Ladusaw)

This paper is the only one which is not original to this volume; it is an
important study which appeared in SALT 4 (Papers from the Fourth Annual
Conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory, 1994).

The goal of the paper is to investigate the extent to which the
Milsarkian effects (Milsark 1974) were derivable from the Kurodian
assumption (1972) that the thetic/categorical distinction should be
imported directly into the semantics, rather than considered only an
aspect of discourse information packaging. A categorical judgement is a
classical two-part predication of the type invoked in Aristotelian term
logic, in which a subject is posited and a predicate is affirmed or
denied of that subject. A thetic judgement is an unpartitioned
predication of the type associated with existential sentences: the
existence of an event or state is affirmed or denied with no
presupposition of a subject to which the predicate applies.

Ladusaw proposes deriving Milsark's distinction between strong and
weak readings of indefinites from this more basic distinction between
judgement or predication types.

8. Negative Inference, Space Construal, and Grammaticalization
(Masa-aki Yamanashi)

The main objective of the paper is to analyse the grammatical development
of negative markers in Japanese. This paper also seeks to elucidate the
cognitive and linguistic aspects of the ways in which spatial terms
grammatically change into negative markers. This study accords with
recent work in cognitive linguistics (e.g. Langacker 1987) that rejects
the view that negation is a primitive and irreducible concept in natural

Negative expressions in Japanese can be basically formed by using an
adjectival marker 'nai' 'non-existent', whose
positive counterpart is 'aru' 'existent'.

The negation in Japanese has a variety of extended uses whose conceptual
core is originally based on the notion of 'non-existence'.
This kind of usage constitutes the basic part of the linguistic system of
negation in Japanese. There exists, however, other types of indirect
negative expressions which are derived from various spatial and
locational expressions.

At the end of the book, there is a useful section, Further Reading, with
a list of the more important readings about the topic of the book.

The book is an interesting attempt to offer a general view of two complex
linguistic phenomena. The editors have collected a number of articles of
researchers with different theoretical background: the result is a review
useful not only for the specialists, but also for the persons interested
in this topic, who want to have a first introduction to these phenomena,
from different point of view.


Chomsky, N. (1994). Bare Phrase Structure. MIT Occasional Papers on
Linguistics. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Linguistics, MIT.

Chomsky, N.(1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Haegeman, L. (1995). The Syntax of Negation. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Haegeman, L. and Zanuttini, R. (1991). Negative Heads and the
NEG-Criterion. Linguistic Review, 8: 233-252.

Jespersen, O. (1917). Negation in English and Other Languages.
Copenaghen: A.F. H�st.

Klima, E. (1964). Negation in English. In Fodor, J. and Katz, J. (eds.).
The Structure of Language. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall: 246-323.

Kuroda, S.-Y. (1972). The Categorical and the Thetic Judgment.
Foundations of Language, 9: 153-185.

Langacker, R.W. (1987). Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Vol.i.
Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Milsark, G. (1974). Existential Sentences in English. Ph.D. dissertation,

Rizzi, L. (1997), The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery. In Haegeman
(ed.), Elements of Grammar. Dordrecht, Kluwer:281-337.

The reviewer: Federica Da Milano, Ph.D. student in Linguistics at the
Department of Linguistics, University of Pavia, Italy. Research topics:
linguistic typology, spatial deixis, negation.


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