Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Query Details

Query Subject:   Clausal Negation
Author:   Jan Lindstrom
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Syntax

Query:   Dear Linguists,

I am studying initially positioned clausal negation, its functions and
distribution in varieties of Swedish but also generally across languages.
To be able to survey the distribution of this syntactic phenomenon
generally I would need your kind help.

The basic pattern that I am interested in is this: we have a standard
negator item that initiates a clause whose content is thus negated. The
negator can be a negator-adverb, a negator-particle, or a negator-verb.
Such initial clausal negation – with the adverb INTE ‘not’ - is typical of
some regional varieties of Swedish (but mainly limited to a colloquial

1. INTE var det nagot fel pa di daer tacosarna.
not was it any fault on those tacos
i.e. There was not fault with those tacos. (They were okay)

2. INTE behoever jag ta skorna bort?
not need I take shoes away
i.e. I do not need to take off my shoes? (Don't I need...)

The first clausal variant functions as a declarative, the latter as an
interrogative – the distinction is pragmatic (and prosodic), not syntactic.
It is equally possible – and pragmatically unmarked, I’d say – to place the
negating adverb past the subject within the clause, which is usual for
English or German:

3. Det var INTE nagot fel pa de daer tacosarna.
it was not any fault on those tacos

A corresponding initial clausal negation is very typical of Finnish, but
the information I have on Danish, Norwegian or Icelandic is more
controversial – data on these would be most welcome. I am likewise
interested in this phenomenon in laguages in general, especially in cases
where there is a variation between initial and inner clausal negation, as
in the Swedish examples. Also, I would appreciate it very much if you can
give a functional (pragmatic, semantic) account of such a possible
syntactic variation in the placement of the negator item. Moreover, some
kind of estimation, if possible, of the typicality or stylistic status of
one of the syntactic variants would be good. Basically, of course, I am
interested in the very ''possibility'' of initial clausal negation in a
language (I take it that this is not possible in English, for instance:
''Not was he there'' (for ''He was not there''). Note that I am not here
interested in phrasal negation, like in cases “Not a word was heard”, where
a word rather than a clause is negated.

Thanks for your attention,
there will be a summary,


Jan Lindstrom
Lecturer, Adjunct Professor
Department of Scandinavian languages and literature
University of Helsinki
LL Issue: 17.1366
Date posted: 04-May-2006


Sums main page