Tid: Torsdag 27 oktober 2016 kl. 15:00-17:00
Plats: C307, Södra huset, Frescati

Postseminarium följer direkt efter seminariet i institutionens pentry.


The evolution of negation is often discussed in terms of a grammaticalization process dubbed Jespersen Cycle by Dahl (1979). Within this process, negation markers are seen to originate from emphatic elements in the negative phrase which gradually lose their sense of emphasis and are eventually interpreted as general verbal negators. Croft (1991) has suggested negative existentials as another source for negation markers; see (1) for a brief illustration of distinct verbal and existential negators.

(1) Turkish (Turkic) (van Schaaik 1994: 38, 44)
Standard/Verbal negator: suffix –me-
Existential negator: yok
a. Gel-me-yecek
     ‘(S)he will not come.’

b. Su yok-tu
    water NEG.EX-PST

c. Su var-dı
water  EX-PST
‘There is water.’

Croft (1991) presented a diachronic model for the evolution of verbal negators from negative existentials under the name Negative Existential Cycle (NEC). The NEC predicts three stable stages, i.e. having the same negative for all verbs, having different negatives for existential and non-existential verbs, and having the negative existential used as the negative marker for all verbs (again). There are also three transitional stages in between the stable ones. Despite renewed interest in cyclical processes in language change cf. (van Gelderen 2008, 2009, Willis, Lucas & Breitbath 2013), the NEC has received little attention.

In this talk I present a summary of my recent work (Veselinova 2014, 2015, 2016) where I examine the realizations of the NEC in several families spread around the globe: Berber, Slavic, Uralic, Dravidian, Turkic, Polynesian and Tucanoan. The collected data allow for several generalizations. First, negative existentials tend to take over very specific parts of verbal negation, that is they can come be used as verbal negator for a specific TAM category or other well delimited context. These partial take-overs of verbal negation tend to last for very long periods of time so a from a diachronic point of view they come to look like stable states. Conversely, a complete take-over of verbal negation by the negative existential occurs very seldom within the time span for reasonable reconstruction. Second, negative existentials enter the domain of SN via several different pathways. These include (i) subordination processes and predicate concatenation; (ii) the reanalysis of an external negator into a negator internal to the proposition; (iii) a direct inheritance of a construction; (iv) the use of negative existentials with nominalized verb forms.

Third, negative existentials have greatest chance to change into general negators in languages where standard negation is expressed by means of a complex clause. Finally, negative existentials are constantly renewed. If an older negative existential is reinterpreted as a general negation marker, typically a new one is already emerging so the distinction between negation of actions and negation of existence is constantly maintained.

These generalizations are further used for a discussion of functional distinctions within the domain of negation and the notion and modeling of cyclical processes in language change.

This work was made possible by a grant P10-0348:1 from Riksbankens Jubileums Fond whose contribution I gratefully acknowledge.

Croft, W. 1991. The Evolution of Negation. Journal of Linguistics 27.1-39.
Dahl, Ö. 1979. Typology of sentence negation. LINGUISTICS 17.79-106.
van Gelderen, E. 2008. Negative Cycles. Linguistic Typology 12.195-243.
van Gelderen E. (ed.) 2009. Cyclical change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
van Schaaik, G. 1994. Turkish. Typological Studies in Negation, ed. by P. Kahrel & R. van den Berg, pp. 35-50. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Veselinova, L.. 2014. The Negative Existential Cycle Revisited. LINGUISTICS 52.1327-69.
Veselinova, L.. 2016. The Negative Existential Cycle through the lens of comparative data. The Linguistic Cycle Continued, ed. by E. van Gelderen, 139-87. Amsterdam/New York: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
Veselinova, L. (with H. Skirgård). 2015. Special Negators in the Uralic Languages: Synchrony, Diachrony and Interaction with Standard Negation. Negation in Uralic Languages, ed. by M. Miestamo, A. Tamm & B. Wagner-Nagy, 547-99. Amsterdam/New York: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Willis, D., C. Lucas & A. Breitbath. 2013. Comparing diachronies of negation. The History of Negation in the Languages of Europe and the Mediterranean, ed. by D. Willis, C. Lucas & A. Breitbath, 1-50. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hjärtligt välkomna!

Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm