LINGUIST List 18.1143

Sun Apr 15 2007

Qs: Existential Constructions; Emphatic embracing negation

Editor for this issue: Kevin Burrows <>

Directory         1.    Ljuba Veselinova, Existential Constructions
        2.    Hilary Barnes, Emphatic embracing negation

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Message 1: Existential Constructions
Date: 12-Apr-2007
From: Ljuba Veselinova <>
Subject: Existential Constructions

In English (as well as other languages I am familiar with) existence can beexpressed by a special 'existential construction' as in (i) below or by aclause with the verb 'exist' as in (ii)

(i) There is such a thing as non-alcoholic beer(ii) Non-alcololic beer exists

(i) represents the 'normal'/frequent/unmarked way to express existencewhereas (ii) can be shown to be marked in many ways: it is less frequentlyused, functionally restricted etc.

When grammars report on existential constructions, typically constructionsof the type of (i) are presented. I would like to check in what otherlanguages there is marked construction like (ii) above used to expressexistence.

The languages I know are Bulgarian, Swedish, French and Russian. I wouldvery much appreciate data from other languages.

Thanks a lot in advance! I will post a summary if there is enough interest.

All good wishes,Ljuba

Linguistic Field(s): Typology
Message 2: Emphatic embracing negation
Date: 12-Apr-2007
From: Hilary Barnes <>
Subject: Emphatic embracing negation

Non-canonical or emphatic negation, as exemplified in (1), implies acorrection on the hearer’s presuppositions that something happened when it,in fact, did NOT happen.

(1) I did NOT see Mary.English uses a special intonation to add this meaning. Other languages(some dialects of Spanish, Catalan and Veneto, among others) use embracingnegation, which consists of the repetition of the negative marker at theend of the clause. Consider the following examples in Spanish, Veneto andCatalan:

(2) Spanish: embracing negationNo lo vi no.NEG it see.1SG.PRET. NEG“I did NOT see it.”

(3) Veneto: embracing negationNo só a qué ora que ineg know-1sg at what time that SCL-3plnda vía no.go-3pl there neg

“I do NOT know what time they are going.”(4) Catalan: embracing negationNo l’ he vist no, a la mevaneg cl.3sg. see 1sg.pres.pft. neg. to the mygermana. sister

“I have NOT seen my sister.”The repetition of the negative marker at the end (embracing negation) isused to convey the meaning of a non-canonical negation. We are interestedin the extension of this phenomenon as well as its development. Thus, wewould like to know:(a) the languages where this structure is present,(b) the meaning of this structure; is it emphatic ?,(c) the possibility of omitting the first negative marker,(d) if the language is in contact with any other language.

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics                             Syntax