[Lingtyp] coordination and predicate negation

Paolo Ramat paoram at unipv.it
Sun Jun 7 09:32:56 UTC 2015

Dear Sasha,
on 18.05.’15 Michale Daniel posted  in the LINGUISTLIST the following mail:

<<Dear all,
below is a letter I post on behalf of Nina Dobrushina. If you have any references or ideas that you could share, please send them to her: nina.dobrushina at gmail.com (also in the copy above)

Michael Daniel

Dear all,

could you give me hints on empirical evidence and literature about languages where the predicates of fear (‘fear’, ‘to be afraid’, ‘to worry’  and the like) (tend to) have negation in the complement clause? I am aware of Russian, French (and other Romance languages), Japanese, and some Turkic languages like Kumyk. Two examples are provided below.


Je    crain-s    que    la    lettre    n’    arrive        pas
I    fear    COMPL    DEF    letter    NEG    come.SUBJ.3SG    NEG

LT: 'I am afraid that the letter does not arrive'
(less literal 'I am afraid that the letter may not arrive')

Japanese (example courtesy Tasaku Tsunoda):

Nanika        waru-i        koto=ga         oki-nak-at-ta=ka        sinpai=da
something        bad-NPST    thing=NOM    happen-NEG-LINK-PST=Q    worried=COP.NPNST
LT: ‘[I] am worried whether something bad did not happen.’
FT: ‘I am worried that something bad happened.’


Nina Dobrushina>>

This mail originated an interesting list of replies, some of which could be interesting for your question, as regards the possibility of double negation (though not in coordination constructions). My own answer referred to the so-called ‘négation explétive’ or ‘abusive’:
<< From: Paolo Ramat 
    Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2015 10:19 AM
    To: Hannu Tommola ; Hartmut Haberland 
    Cc: linguist at LINGUISTLIST.ORG ; list, typology ; nina.dobrushina at gmail.com 
    Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] fear + NEG

>From Wikipedia s.v. ‘Pleonasm’:

<<The pleonastic ne (ne pléonastique) expressing uncertainty in formal French works as follows

  "Je crains qu'il ne pleuve."
  ("I fear it may rain.") 
  "Ces idées sont plus difficiles à comprendre que je ne pensais."
  ("These ideas are harder to understand than I thought.") >>
The same holds for Italian, with some slight stylistic differences:
Temo che non piova (Subjunctive)  means usually “I’m afraid that it will not rain” and the sentence with the opposite meaning “I’m afraid that it will rain” is in an unmarked style Temo che piova.
On the contrary, the second sentence will usually contain the negative non since it refers to an actual negative state of affairs :I didn’t think that.... : Queste idee sono più difficili a capirsi che non pensassi (IMPF. SUBJ)
?? Queste idee sono più difficili a capirsi che pensassi sounds very odd. Usually you would say  Queste idee sono più difficili a capirsi di quanto (non) pensavo, where non is quite correct, though not compulsory.

(See P. Ramat,  La comparazione negativa.  Arch. Glott. Ital. 87/2002: 223-229 and the seminal article by Joseph Vendryes, Sur la négation abusive, Bull. Soc. Linguist. 46/1950: 1-18). >>

Best regards.

Prof.Paolo Ramat
Università di Pavia
Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS Pavia)

From: David Gil 
Sent: Saturday, June 06, 2015 5:58 PM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org 
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] coordination and predicate negation

Hebrew and Indonesian are two languages which have constructions of the form NEG V OR V, ie. like the ungrammatical Russian (2), without the auxiliary.

On 06/06/2015 20:33, Alexander Letuchiy wrote:

  Dear Matthew, 


  Sure, I also consider that the reason for English is the presence of the auxiliary. 
  However, what I want is to try to think of it a bit broader: is it true that an English-like situation is never observed in languages without an auxiliary? If yes, what does it tell us of the negation syntax? If no, what is the difference between Russian and some other languages where negation can be expressed once?

  From: m.baerman at surrey.ac.uk
  To: alexander_letuchiy at hotmail.com
  Subject: FW: [Lingtyp] coordination and predicate negation
  Date: Sat, 6 Jun 2015 13:18:07 +0000

  Hi Sasha

  I’m no syntactician, so forgive me for stating the obvious, but I would imagine that the explanation for the English state of affairs is the auxiliary, which hosts the negation. Since auxiliaries in English can have multiple complements, you can get away with one auxiliary, hence one negation.



  From: Lingtyp [mailto:lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org] On Behalf Of Alexander Letuchiy
  Sent: 06 June 2015 14:47
  To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
  Subject: [Lingtyp] coordination and predicate negation

  Dear colleagues,

  Are you aware of any linguistic work on coordination in constructions with predicate negation?

  One of the questions which I am interested in is why in some languages (English) the negation can be expressed once (1), while in others (Russian) it must be expressed twice (3), while (2) is ungrammatical:


  (1) He does not read books or watch TV.


  (2) *On  ne    chitaet  knigi      i /        ili smotrit     televizor

          he  NEG  reads     books  and  /  or watches   TV

          Intended: 'He does not read books and / or watch TV'.

  (3)  On  ne      chitaet   knigi   i        ne      smotrit    televizor

          he  NEG   reads     books and NEG   watches   TV

          'He does not read books and does not watch TV'.

  Thanks a lot in advance,

  Sasha Letuchiy, Moscow


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David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550333
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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