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

New from Oxford University Press!


Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Summary Details

Query:   Negation in Contemporary French
Author:  Bruno Estigarribia Fioravanti
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Hello colleagues of the list,

I couple of weeks ago I posted a query on bibliography about double and simple negation in contemporary French. Here's the summary. Thanks to all who responded, your help was greatly appreciated.

Here's my query again :

>> I'm currently writing a brief account of negation in contemporary French and I'm having trouble finding articles and/or >>books that aren't dated or that provide some original enlightenment. My claim would be, basically, that we need to >>abandon the idea of ''ne'' dropping to explain the different surface forms of negation. Instead, one could
contend, for >>instance, that the basic negation is a simple, postponed one, and that one has to account for the appearance of ''ne'', not >>for its ''deletion''.
>> It may lead nowhere, but perhaps it's an idea worth examining.
>> I'll summarize. Thanks to everyone.

And here are the answers. Again, thanks ever so much.

Francois Lareau:

Je ne sais pas si c'est propre seulement au francais quebecois, mais, au moins dans cette variete, je ne peux meme pas imaginer une phrase ou le ''ne'' apparaEEt (meme si je viens d'ecrire ''ne'' deux fois! C'evidemment, on ne les prononce pas). Le seul contexte que je
peux imaginer ou on pourrait etre tentede voir un ''ne'' est: ''il n'en a pas'', qu'on prononce /innapa/ (avec un double /n/). Mais on dit aussi pour ''il en a'' /inna/, donc ce double /n/ n'a rien a voir avec la negation.

Ceci dit, je n'ai fait aucune recherche serieuse sur le sujet, je vous donne un avis de locuteur plutot que de linguiste.

Bien a vous,
Francois Lareau


Pierre Larrivee:

Je n'ai pas de reponse directe a votre hypothese; un auteur a consulter est certainement Hugues Peters, qui a defendu recemment dans le cadre minimaliste le caractere subsidiaire de ne; je ne suis pas d'accord avec son point de vue, mais il l'illustre bien.

Peut-etre par ailleurs parmi les quelques ecrits que j'ai commis sur la negation y aurait-il des choses qui puissent vous interesser? Je vous renvoie a la bibliographie choisie sur ma page web ( ) , il me fera plaisir de vous envoyer copie d'un travail ou l'autre.

Meilleures saluations collegiales,

Pierre Larrivee


Theo Vennemann:

I think your view of the matter is correct. You are dealing with the final step of rule inversion: loss of an inverse rule. Cf. Lingua 29 (1972), 9-242 on ''Rule Inversion'', and ''Language change as language improvement'', in Charles Jones, ed., Historical linguistics:
Problems and perspectives. London (Longman), 1993, 319-344, there pp. 335-342 on the development of the bracing negation.

Best wishes,
Theo Vennemann.
3 July 01


John Koontz:

Without having any particular reference in mind, I would suggest looking at the literature on the English negative, long since ''X not'' from earlier ''ne X not.''

You might also look for a general literature on the typology or diachrony of negatives. Again I have no specific references in mind, other than the usual standard works on typology, but I work with a language family (Siouan) in which negatives are normally enclitic (cf., e.g., Dakotan), but some languages have fixed or regular preposed particles or proclitics that pair with these (Winnebago, Biloxi, Mandan). Unfortunately, we don't have any diachronic data bearing on this, apart from comparative evidence. Some changes have occurred in documented fashion in the Siouan languages in the historical period, but not these.

For what it's worth, the Siouan negative enclitics seem to be more or less cognate, though subject to considerable analogical modification in some cases, but the proclitics are not. There is some possibility that the enclitics may be historically primarily emphatic or
contrastive in meaning, and thus only secondarily associated with negative marking, but this is perhaps not relevant to your situation, though it might help explain how, if the tendency is to evolve from proclitic to circumfixed to enclitic, it is the enclitics that are cognate in this case. However, the location of the primary negative marker may be different in Siouan from ''General Western European,'' since the Siouan languages tend strongly to SOV word order.

John Koontz


Marc Picard:

Vous devriez pouvoir trouver quelque chose d'utile dans le bouquin suivant.

Ayres-Bennett, Wendy and Janice Carruthers with Rosalind Temple (01) Studies in the Modern French Language: Problems and Perspectives, Longman, paperback, xix, 406 pp. (includes Notes and Indexes)

Chapter 11 centers around negations. After a brief discussion of the terminology, the authors study the scope of negation (total or sentential negation) along with the constraints on negative raising in French (especially the verbs allowing negative raising). They then focus on whether 'ne...que' (only) and the so- called expletive 'ne'
should be analyzed as negative constructions. They do so by showing differences between these two constructions and negative constructions. This chapter concludes with an analysis of the loss of 'ne' and the consequent marking of negation by 'pas' alone. This is undertaken both from a historical point of view and synchronically, through the analysis of how syntactic, phonetic, semantic, lexical, stylistic, and demographic factors influence the retention of 'ne.'


Dr. Jean-Marc Dewaele:

Cher collegue,

Voici quelques references:

Coveney, A. (1996). Variability in spoken French: A sociolinguistic study of interrogation and negation, Exeter: Elm Bank.
Dewaele, J.-M. (1992). L'omission du ne dans deux styles oraux d'interlangue francaise. Interface. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7, 3-17.
Dewaele, J.-M. & Regan, V. a paraetre). MaEEtriser la norme sociolinguistique en interlangue francaise: le cas de l'omission variable de ne. Journal of French Language Studies.
Ashby, W. (1981). The loss of the negative particle ne in French: A syntactic change in progress. Language, 57, 674-687.
Ashby, W. (01). Un nouveau regard sur la chute du ne en francais parletourangeau: s'agit-il d'un changment en cours? Journal of French Language Studies, 11, 1-22.
Regan, V. (1995). The acquisition of sociolinguistic native speech norms: effects of a year abroad on second language learners of French.
Dans B.F. Freed (dir.), Second language acquisition in a study abroad context. (pp. 245-267). Philadelphie: Benjamins.
Regan, V. (1996). Variation in French interlanguage: A longitudinal study of sociolinguistic competence. Dans R. Bayley & D.R. Preston (dir.), Second language acquisition and linguistic variation, (pp.177-1). Philadelphie: Benjamins.
Rehner, K., & Mougeon, R. (1999). Variation in the spoken French of immersion students: To ne or not to ne, that is the sociolinguistic question. Canadian Modern Language Review, 56, 124-154.

Bien cordialement,

Dr. Jean-Marc Dewaele
French Deptm
Birkbeck College, University of London


Thanks to everyone again. Your references and comments proved very helpful.

Bruno Estigarribia Fioravanti
UniversiteParis V-ReneDescartes-Sorbonne
Departement de Linguistique generale et appliquee

LL Issue: 12.1851
Date Posted: 18-Jul-2001
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page