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Academic Paper


Title: French imperatives, negative ne, and non-subject clitics
Author: Paul Rowlett
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.languages.salford.ac.uk/staff/rowlett.php
Institution: University of Salford
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Syntax
Subject Language: French
Abstract: This article focuses on the behaviour of negation and clitics in the context of French imperatives. Standard descriptions contrast positive Fais-le ! (with enclisis) with negative (Ne) le fais pas ! (with proclisis). I adopt a view of imperatives in terms of a pragmatic irrealis mood feature associated with Rizzi's (1997) exploded CP and defective/impoverished morphology which allows inflection and irrealis mood features to be checked on a single functional head. Thus, positive imperatives can check all their grammatical features before merger of any clitics, which (following Shlonsky, 2004) will therefore be enclitic. The presence of negation, when realised as a grammatical feature on an (overt or null) functional head within the clausal trunk, prevents this from happening because negation intervenes between the relevant inflection and mood features in the universal hierarchy underlying the Rizzi/Cinque exploded CP/IP. Outside cliticisation contexts, the difference has no surface impact: Viens ! vs. (Ne) viens pas ! In cliticisation contexts, in contrast, there is a surface difference: negative imperatives cannot check all their inflectional features at the point at which clitics are merged, and clitics will not therefore be enclitic. Regionally/stylistically marked forms like Fais-le pas !, in which proclisis and negation co-occur, must be deemed to have a radically different structure, with no negative feature projected within the inflectional domain. Such forms are argued to be a natural (and therefore expected) innovation within Jespersen's cycle of diachronic development.

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This article appears IN Journal of French Language Studies Vol. 24, Issue 1.

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