LINGUIST List 24.2396

Wed Jun 12 2013

Sum: Lexicalizations of Negative Senses

Editor for this issue: Brent Miller <>

Date: 12-Jun-2013
From: Ljuba Veselinova <>
Subject: Lexicalizations of Negative Senses
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Dear All,

Back in January, I posted a query about the cross-linguistic occurrence of lexicalizations of negation. An example of such a lexicalization is given here from Tundra Nenets:

(1) jexerasj ‘not know’ vs. ténewasj ‘know’ (standard negation is expressed by a negative auxiliary n’i- in this language).

I received a number of replies for which I am very grateful. My warmest thanks go to Martine Bruil (Ecuadorian Siona), Timur Maisak (Udi), Mike Morgan and Calle Börstell (Sign languages), Ana Bravo (Spanish), Lameen Souag (Berber, Songhay and Ancient Egyptian), Johannes Heinecke (Welsh).

The data sent to me confirmed the trend in my own dataset: the most common lexicalization appears to be of the sense ‘not know’/’I don’t know’ followed by senses such as ‘not want’, ‘not need/not have to’ as well as special expressions of the prohitibitive.

Some examples include:

(2) Ecuadorian Siona: 'wehsë' ‘not know’ vs guahcha ‘know’ (Martine Bruil)
(3) Udi: tezava 'I don't know' (= te-z-ava 'NEG-1SG-know') > /hezava/ or /heza/ (Timur Maisak)

(4) Spanish no tener por qué ‘not have to (Ana Bravo)

(5) Welsh Paid ‘do not’ (Johannes Heinecke)

I am still working on this topic so any comments or new data are very welcome. Once again, many thanks to all who responded!

My best wishes,


Linguistic Field(s): Typology

Page Updated: 12-Jun-2013