Friday, April 28: Jason Merchant

Please join us this Friday as Jason Merchant from the Linguistics Department presents work on Afrikaans negation.

Date and time: Friday, April 28, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Modifying the colored lambda-calculus to model negative concord and the Afrikaans clause-final negator


Standard Afrikaans final nie seems to be a kind of polarity item that appears at the end of certain phrases, most prominently at the end of clauses containing sentential negation. There is a broad syntactic consensus that this final negative particle is a sentence-final element. Based on new attested data from coordination and scope, I argue against this consensus, and show that final nie in its usual clausal use is a VP-final element, not a clause-final one (or a clause-initial one, with a TP fronted past it). This distribution is most straightforwardly accounted for if final nie is a special clitic (not an affix) whose presence in the clausal structure is required by a licensing element, as in Zanuttini 1997, but whose set of licensers is puzzlingly diverse (including adverbs such as nouliks ‘barely’ and verbs like weier ‘refuse’, but not sonder ‘without’) in a pattern reminiscent of the thicket of elements sensitive to varieties of negativity found in the Hornian/Giannakidean pantheon. I follow Biberauer and Zeijlstra 2012 in analyzing final nie as a non-negative element; unlike them, however, I posit that nie’s distribution is due to its semantics: nie has the semantic effect of changing the predicate it occurs with into something that will be composable only if a negative element takes it as an argument (nie produces a negative isotope of its argument). I implement this analysis in a modified variant of the colored λ-calculus (Gardent et al 1998). Such an analysis, I show, is superior to Agree-based ones, and only it explains why nie appears at all. Standard Afrikaans is a double negative language, and my analysis extends to multiple negative words assuming a ‘lazy’ type-fitting system (Partee and Rooth 1983, Winter 2001). This analysis can also be extended to colloquial Afrikaans, which is a kind of negative concord language (Giannakidou 2000, 2006); in such uses, the negative quantifiers shift to their non-negative indefinite counterparts.

(Time permitting, I discuss implications of nie’s haplological behavior for our understanding of locality of allomorphic conditioning, arguing that the linear model of Arregi and Nevins 2012 is superior to ones requiring phase- or word-internality.)

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