Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITOR: Laurence R. Horn TITLE: The Expression of Negation SERIES TITLE: The Expression of Cognitive Categories [ECC] 4 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Pierre Larrivée, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University
A universal feature of natural human languages that sets them apart from animal communication systems is negation. It is addressed in this collection of articles coordinated by Laurence R. Horn. It presents 8 contributions, opens with an introduction by Horn, who provides an extensive bibliography of linguistic publications on negation since 2000 going beyond English-language work in high-profile outlets (the period before 2000 is covered by the second edition of Horn's 2001 ''Natural History of Negation''), and is appended with subject, language and author indexes. This review first provides a summary of each contribution with local constructive observations, before providing an overall evaluation of the volume.
The ''Typology of negation'' (pp. 9-38) is presented by Östen Dahl, who is known for his foundational 1979 article on the subject. He provides a useful review of current work in the field and highlights data of interest on the cross-linguistic behaviour of negatives. A meaningful approach to such behaviour however presupposes an operational classification. One such classification follows morphosyntactic categorisations (affixes vs. particles and words, different parts of speech from adverbs to pronouns and negative verbs; little is said about inherent negatives such as 'deny', 'fear' and 'doubt', the history of the English items being dealt with by Iyeiri 2010). Another takes a more sentential perspective, and asks what a standard negative might be and how it relates to word order, raising the notion of symmetrical negation proposed by Miestamo 2005 (where Spanish 'No se' is symmetrical with respect to the affirmative as it requires the addition of one element that does not change the morphosyntax of the underlying proposition, unlike the English equivalent 'I don't know'). (A)symmetry helps to frame the issue of non-standard negatives in imperatives, existential and verbless copular sentences as well as in subordinates (prohibitives would have deserved a mention). Discussion is offered on negation and quantification, the relation with focus particles and the debated issue of n-words, before the evolution of negation is evoked.
An overview of issues relating to ''The Acquistion of negation'' (pp. 39-71) is provided by Christine Dimroth, who works on first (L1) and second language (L2) acquisition of negation and focus particles. She offers a synthesis of work on L1 and L2 acquisition of negation, and presents the debate as to the successive functions of negatives through the acquisition of mother tongue, at the one-word stage, and at the multi-word stage; the fact that negation first expresses non-existence before it does rejection and denial might relate to the more immediate access to objects in the immediate experience than to sentences. Negatives are first communicated by autonomous sentence-like expressions ('No!') before the markers are gradually integrated into the sentence, a process dependent on the acquisition of finite inflections on the verb in first and second language. Once the target position is learned, the interaction with quantifiers and indefinites still needs to be acquired, and recent research on this is discussed. A useful comparison is provided between L2 and L1 acquisition, the main difference being that L2 acquisition does not have to go through the one-word stage; divergence may be observed as to scope and focus relations, although these require more research.
Johan van der Auwera reviews the issues ''On the diachrony of negation'' (pp. 73-109). He is concerned with the diachronic source of negatives. The Jespersen cycle is investigated by which a preverbal marker in an initial stage is supported by a postverbal one in stage 2 to remain the only marker in stage 3 once the preverbal marker has disappeared. While the postverbal marker is generally different from the preverbal one, this is not the case in Brazilian Portuguese and Dutch, the former having the expected emphatic value justifying the inception of stage 2, but not Dutch. Other unexpected instances in stage 3 include the preverbal marker being maintained to be exapted to another function, or being maintained with a third negative taken on. The later scenario would yield a clear case of asymmetrical negation, and non-standard negative prohibition, verbless copular and existential sentences are revisited, as is the debate around n-words.
The question of multiple negatives is addressed by Laurence Horn in the chapter ''Multiple negation in English and other languages'' (pp. 111-148). Horn reviews cases of double negation (not uncharacteristically, this isn't not like him), before moving to 'hypernegation' configurations where extra negatives spread through a sentence (the iconic 'I can't get no satisfaction'), acquire an expletive value under the command of an inherently negative item ('deny', 'fear', 'doubt', 'before'), or in a subordinate ('Don't be surprised if it doesn't rain') due to performance errors; resumptive negatives ('It won't rain, I don't think, not even in the cool of the night') are mentioned. The ambivalence between the expletive and negative values of approximation expressions is illustrated by Spanish and Mandarin data. Ample attestations from contemporary English, as well as French, Italian and Japanese among other languages, are referred to, as are views from logicians of yore. The discussion disentangles lexical, usage and pragmatic factors, to propose the overall pragmatic conclusion that special reasons justify the use of marked forms, although these reasons might well differ according to which Gricean reasoning is to be referred to. On the whole, as special forms that flout the maxim of manner, double negation qualifies an assertion, whereas hypernegation displays a strong commitment to the negative.
The next chapter by Gunnel Tottie and Anja Neukom-Hermann pursues the question of ''Quantifier-negation interaction in English: A corpus linguistic study of all...not constructions'' (pp. 149-185). A negation focusing on a preceding universal quantifier ('All the bills don't amount to £50', some but not all) has been an enduring object of wonder, as it reverses the expected order of focus relations, and is amenable to variation: apart from acquisitional and regional differences, notable interpretative vagaries are found, with the possible negative focus on the verb ('All the bills do simply not amount to £50', each amounts to less) or the attested collective reading of the quantifier ('All of the bills put together don't amount to £50'). A thorough review of the internal and external factors is presented that govern the reading of the 452 attestations of the configuration found in spoken and written communication in the British National Corpus. The quantifier focus accounts for 54% of readings overall, is prevalent when 'all' is the NP head ('All is not lost'), and predominant with formulaic sequences in the written medium, speakers tending to use less formulaic language and prefer the negative focusing on the verb. This suggests that inverse quantifier focus is a feature of higher registers that has to be learned. Whatever the case may be, this is a substantial addition to the series of important corpus studies of negation for which the first author is noted.
Another corpus endeavour supports the study of ''Negative and negative polarity items: An investigation of the interplay of lexical meaning and global conditions on expression'' (pp. 187-224). Jack Hoeksema explores the disparity between the expected distribution of negative polarity items (NPIs) as items licensed by nonveridical contexts (Giannakidou 1998), and their actual usage. The licensing requirements of NPIs would lead to the expectation that they are to be found with negation, in conditionals and questions among others, yet these contexts are not always attested, and German 'auch nur' is found in most environments except with negation itself (p. 190). Some contexts are more frequent with a particular NPI, and quantitative data are provided for weak triggers of 'any', 'ever', and modal 'need', with comparison between English, German and Dutch for the latter two. The licensing environment is not the only collocational restriction on NPIs, and the various noun phrases literally referring to animals to deny the presence of people such as French 'pas un chat', Flemish 'geen kat' and Danish 'ikke en kat' (all literally ''not a cat'') seem infelicitous with verbs of speaking for instance. Quantified data on other idiomatic NPIs such as 'the likes of which', '(not a N) in sight', '(not) an X goes by (without Y)', '(not) all that (X)' and their German and Dutch equivalents support the conclusions that the distribution of particular items cannot be ignored.
An experimental approach to the interpretation of negation is provided in ''Negation as a metaphor-inducing operator'' by Rachel Giora, Ofer Fein, Nili Metuki and Pnina Stern (pp. 225-256). The issue that is pursued with the study of ''metaphorical'' uses of negation is whether concepts under negation have the same psycholinguistic accessibility as concepts in positive environments, where 'You are not my maid' is used not literally to deny the occupation of a particular function, but metaphorically to reject some implied property of maids. (A not unimportant quibble here: it might be preferable to speak of an 'attributive' reading of the complement phrase, which finds itself negated; while it is true as shown in this article that negative contexts make the attributive reading of 'I'm not Rockefeller' ¬more likely than a positive context 'I'm Rockefeller', it is clearly not the negation that is metaphorical, but the reading of the proper noun.) The relevant interpretation is tested through three experiments supplemented by a corpus investigation. The first establishes whether negation does indeed promote a metaphorical reading more readily than positive environments, by asking 48 participants whether the positive and negative versions of sentences such as 'You're my maid' have a literal or metaphorical interpretation. Similar judgment by 24 subjects of the negative version compared to a semantically equivalent version with 'almost' in the second experiment confirms the relation between negation and metaphorical readings. The third one asks 48 subjects to indicate the interpretation of sequences on a Likert scale at each end of which figure metaphorical and literal interpretations of sentences. The relation between negation and metaphorical interpretations is confirmed by a corpus study of the relevant sequences in English, German and Russian.
The final chapter offers a detailed treatment of Classical Japanese. Yasuhiko Kato is concerned here with negation in 10th-11th century Japanese as attested in literary sources. Negation is expressed by at least four items, often preceded by a preverbal 'e' that had at an earlier stage a potentiality meaning, could communicate negation on its own with categorical judgment, compared to the thetic judgment speculated to characterise negative sentences in its absence. Another form of embracing negation involved in metalinguistic negation is evoked, and the general cases of double negation and negative polarity items are discussed. A detailed discussion follows of the placement of preverbal 'e' that can precede a variety of preverbal phrases. The examination of the attestations shows that 'e' defines the limits of the left periphery, situated below Focus and above Wh-Focus.
This volume is a collection of essays by leading authors that covers a range of questions of contemporary interest on the topic of negation. Possible additions would have been current sociolinguistic developments, or the experimental pragmatics of implicatures and presuppositions, which are nonetheless touched upon in the volume. The chapters are divided between overviews of the current debates and controversies, for typology, acquisition, evolution and concord of multiple negatives, and novel empirical contributions on negative polarity items, negative focus, relation to information structure, and to attributive readings. The empirical contributions all rely on corpora to yield important results: reverse focus relates preponderantly to formulaic sequences in written language, important collocational restrictions attach to the distribution of many a negative polarity item, the position of negation is indicative of the informational status of the sentence and may separate the clausal core from its left periphery, and concepts are not any less accessible under negation than they are in the positive (although possibly with a different reading). The corpus data are used in conjunction with experimental procedures by Giora and her colleagues, to demonstrate how fruitful this joint approach can be and why it should be adopted widely. What will not be found in this volume is extensive speculation bound to particular theoretical models, although some of their predictions are considered. By its empirical focus and its wide coverage of cutting-edge issues, this volume is very much in the spirit of the 2000 collection edited by Horn with Kato, and finds an enviable place amongst major recent or forthcoming publications on negation (contributions in van Gelderen 2009, de Swart 2010 for syntax, typology in Breitbarth, Lucas and Willis forthcoming and evolution in Larrivée and Ingham forthcoming).
One central issue for future research is the need for transferable working definitions of some of the central concepts that define the behaviour of negation. I have expressed elsewhere (Larrivée 2010) my concerns that a notion such as emphasis remains so vague as to make it difficult to ascertain whether it is expressed by Lewo negative tripling (p. 84), and precision is needed if a question such as that of ''the principles by which languages with more than one negative construction choose between them'' (Dahl, p. 34) is to be answered conclusively. Similar uncertainties apply to speculative categories in L1 acquisition such as 'absence', on which much time and effort have been devoted while having been neither defined, nor diagnosed, nor shown to correspond to anything reported in typology, evolution or variation. If the field is to elucidate new generalisations, testable characterisations, diagnostics and delimited applications are needed.
This work constitutes important reading for specialists on negation and those interested in grammatical systems.
Breitbarth, Anne, Christopher Lucas and David Willis (Eds.). (Forthcoming). 'The Development of Negation: the Languages of Europe and the Mediterranean'. Two volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
van Gelderen, Elly. 2009. 'Cyclical change'. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins. Giannakidou, Anastasia. 1998. 'Polarity Sensitivity as (Non) Veridical Dependency'. Amsterdam: Benjamins
Horn, Laurence R. 2001. 'A Natural history of negation'. Stanford: CSLI.
Horn, Laurence R. and Yasuhiko Kato. 2000. 'Negation and polarity: syntactic and semantic perspectives'. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Iyeiri, Yoko. 2010. 'Verbs of implicit negation and their complements in the history of English'. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins.
Larrivée, Pierre. 2010. The Pragmatic motifs of the Jespersen Cycle. Default, activation and the history of negation in French. 'Lingua' 120,9, 2240-2258.
Larrivée, Pierre and Richard Ingham (Eds). (Forthcoming). 'The Evolution of Negation: Beyond the Jespersen Cycle'. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Miestamo, Matti. 2005. 'Standard Negation. The Negation of Declarative Verbal Main Clauses in a Typological Perspective'. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
de Swart, Henriëtte. 2010. 'Expression and interpretation of negation'. Dordrecht: Springer.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Pierre Larrivée is a Reader in French Linguistics at Aston University
(Birmingham, UK). He has published extensively on interpretative issues
relating to negation and scalarity, and is currently the Principal
Investigator for the International Network ''Cycles of Grammaticalization:
Comparative views on the history of negation'.