14.1173, Sum: Prosodic Marking of Negation

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LINGUIST List:  Vol-14-1173. Wed Apr 23 2003. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 14.1173, Sum: Prosodic Marking of Negation

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Date:  Mon, 21 Apr 2003 11:19:50 +0200
From:  "Remijsen, A.C.L." <A.C.L.Remijsen at let.leidenuniv.nl>
Subject:  prosodic marking of negation

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 21 Apr 2003 11:19:50 +0200
From:  "Remijsen, A.C.L." <A.C.L.Remijsen at let.leidenuniv.nl>
Subject:  prosodic marking of negation


A number of months ago, I sent out a query (Linguist 13.2045) via
LinguistList, asking if anybody had information on prosodic marking of
negation. Here is a summary of the replies. It got delayed initially
because of a technical problem (difficulty with posting the summary
via the web), but the subsequent delay is just me being slow in
looking for a solution. Please accept my apologies for that.

First of all, thanks to all of you who replied to my query! There were
15 replies, which ranged from claiming that no language has
exclusively prosodic marking of negation, to one from somebody who
expressed his surprise about my query, and said that he had always
assumed that all languages can express negation prosodically. This
range of variation assured me that I had not been wasting your time
asking you about an issue with a self-evident answer.

A number of different phenomena are discussed in the replies: (i) the
prosodic (non-manual) marking of negation in sign languages; (ii)
tonal marking of negation in African tone languages; (iii)
intonational marking of negation in English (in combination with
segmental morpheme) and in Malay (iv) prosodic marking of negation by
means of vowel lengthening. I will briefly summarize the reactions in
the following paragraph, and below that can find a lengthy summary of
the replies, including a bibliography of negation in sign language
(thanks to Bencie Woll).

So - are there any languages that mark negation prosodically without
additional segmental encoding?

(i) While most of the reactions discussing sign languages say that
there always is a manual marker involved, Bencie Woll argues that the
prosodic (non-manual) marker may occur on its own. So if this claim
can be substantiated with evidence, the question above can be answered

(ii) There is no doubt about it that negation is marked prosodically,
and uniquely so, in a number of African tone languages.  Of course,
this marking of negation is of a different nature from the examples I
cited from Papiamentu and Kuot. In the latter the prosodic component
of the marking of negation is intonational - the pitch contour that
encodes the negative is realized on whatever constituent is located in
a certain position in the phrase. In the African tone languages listed
below, the marking of negation is morphological - it is a tonal
morpheme - sometimes one of many - that is associated with the
verb. The encoding of the negative in the Creole language Ndjuka (see
reply by Huttar) may also fit in this category, and that fact may be
of interest to people who look for evidence for an Atlantic Sprachbund
of Caribbean creoles and West African languages.

(iii) No conclusive evidence was reported that negation can be marked
solely through prosody in intonational (i.e., non-lexical tone)
languages. Whereas the encoding of negation by means of intonation may
frequently or even regularly accompany the segmental marking in
English, it does not occur without the latter. If the regularity is as
strong as some say (see replies below), then one of the two markers is
functionally redundant, and would, logically, be prone to be lost. But
this does not happen, and that is surprising. Of course it may be that
we don't have the data of the intonational system that does have
negation marked solely through intonation. Another intonational
language for which negative marking through prosody was reported is
Malay (various dialects - information from David Gil and
myself). However, here the prosodic negative is limited to one or two
verbs. At least in Ambonese Malay, this contour may encode a
paralinguistic emotional meaning rather than negation as a concept of
propositional semantics. In any case, the lack of productivity of this
contour is suspicious.

(iv) A revelation for me were the reports of durational marking of
negation.  While it is not reported what form this marking takes in
Nanai (reply from Roland Pfau), in the Austronesian languages cited by
John Lynch it does appear to be a matter of morphological marking,
similar to the tonal morphemes of African tone languages.

Here are the reactions summarized in more detail:

Laurence Horn claims that no language exists in which negation is
marked exclusively by means of prosody, i.e., in the absence of a
segmental (morphological or syntactic) encoding. He makes this claim
in his book 'Natural History of Negation' (U. of Chicago Press, 1989;
reissue, CSLI, 2001), pp. 472-3. He notes that the claimed evidence
for marking of negation in American Sign Language involves both a
segmental and a suprasegmental dimension (research by Bridget
Copley). I.e., the marking of negation in ASL would not take place
solely through negation , but rather be similar to the phenomena I
mentioned of Kuot and Papiamentu.

Ton van der Wouden refers to another publication in which the claim is
made that such languages do not exist: John Payne: Negation, in
Timothy Shopen (ed.)  Language Typology and Syntactic Description,
Cambridge University Press 1985, 197-242. He also discusses the
counter-evidence from a sign language, in this case the Sign Language
of the Netherlands (Nederlandse Gebarentaal). He notes that the
negative morpheme is obligatorily accompanied by a specific facial
expression. The data and analysis come from the PhD diss of Jane
Coerts (Nonmanual grammatical markers. An analysis of interrogatives,
negations and topicalisations in Sign Language of the Netherlands,
Amsterdam 1992). He says that Jane Coerts argues that the facial
encoding of negation marks the scope of the negation.

Bencie Woll and Roland Pfau give more information on negation in sign
languages. Pfau: "In signed languages, prosody is (often) marked by a
non-manual modification, that is, by facial expressions and/or head
movements. In DGS it is possible to negate a sentence by adding a
side-to-side headshake which is realized simultaneously with the verb
sign."  Bencie Woll claims that negation can be expressed exclusively
non-manually or prosodically in sign languages: "As far as I know, all
sign languages use intonational marking of negation (i.e. marked by
non-manual features such as head movement, eyebrow position,
etc.). These may co-occur with segmental negation markers
(e.g. NOTHING, NOT, NEVER, NOT-YET) or occur on their own.  There is a
substantial literature in the sign linguistics field on this topic. I
have a PhD student who is currently researching negation in Greek Sign
Language <k.antzakas at city.ac.uk>, , and there is an on-going typology
study of sign languages, directed by Ulrike Zeshan
<u.zeshan at latrobe.edu.au> which has included a study of negation
across a large number of sign languages."

Bruce Connel reports that: "marking of negation by means of tonal
alternation occurs in Mambila, a Bantoid language spoken in Cameroon
and Nigeria.  In Ba-Mambila, which has four lexical tones (1 - 4 =
High to Low, verbs with inherent tone 2 or 2-1 take tone 1 in the
negative, while verbs with inherent tone 3, 3-1, or 3-4, all take tone
4 in the negative. It seems to me it is not uncommon in Benue-Congo
(and perhaps also elsewhere in Niger-Congo) for marking of negation to
be done tonally, either accompanied by segmental marking or not,
though I don't have other exx readily to hand."

Elke Hentschel: "one of the languages you're looking for is Kele
(Bantu, Central Africa).  There is an example in Carrington, John
F. (1949): Talking Drums of Africa. Oxford: Alden Press, on p. 19:
ayeke (high-low-low): 'let him come' ayeke (high-high-low): 'don't let
him come' and an anecdote of someone unintentionally praying 'may Thy
Kingdom not come, may Thy will not be done' etc."

Roland Pfau also presents evidence of prosodic marking of negation in
African tone languages: he writes that in a survey of the literature,
in which he looked for evidence of prosodic marking of negation, he
"only came across three spoken languages in which negation is
expressed by a prosodic modification alone: Ga, spoken in Ghana (but
only in the past tense); Ogbru, spoken in the Sothern Ivory Coast
(only with monosyllabic verbs due to a tonal constraint); and Nanai
(see below). Similarly, Michael Becker writes that "in many Bantu
languages, negated verbs have various effects on prosodic phrasing."

George Huttar: "In Ndyuka, a creole of Suriname, positive vs. negative
is indicated by high vs. low tone respectively, with no segmental
difference--but only for the copula _na_: Mi na gaanman.  'I am
chief.' (low tone on _na_) Mi na gaanman.  'I am not chief.' (high
tone on _na_) See George Huttar and Mary Huttar, 1994, _Ndyuka_
(London: Routledge), p.  134."

Janet Bing: "In Liberian Krahn negation is marked with a high tone
only.  There are examples sentences (39)-(42) in the following
article. 1993 Janet Bing and John Duitsman.  Postpositions and the
Valency Marker in Krahn: Monosemy Versus Polysemy. Journal of West
African Languages. 23 (1) pp.  91-104."  I do not know if this a tone
language - given it's geographical position, it may well be, and that
would make it a case of morphological tone.

Both Remy Viredaz and Michael Becker argue that the expression of
negation has a prosodic component in English: "Even in English
negation is sometimes expressed by intonation. The mini-sentences
Pronoun + Auxiliary Verb (positive or negative) like "I do", "I don't"
seem to have high tone on the positive verb and low or low-falling
tone on the negated verb. The fact may pass unnoticed in general, so I
do not know if it's general. With "I can" and "I can't" in American
pronunciation, the final plosive and the shortening are certainly not
always very distinct so you will almost have an minimal pair.  I
remember that during a stay in Britain I once answered "I can" with
unvoluntary low tone on "can", and I was answered back: "You can, or
you can't?!" with the respective high and low tones on the verbs (and
that British dark long a, though the person may have thought that I
used the American æ in can't, too). That tends to mean that tone, in
such a case, is even more important than the phonemic distinction.
...  The one-word sentences Yes and No probably have those high and
low tones, too, but I have not had the opportunity to check this."
The issue of the expression of negation in English intonation was also
raised by Michael Bernstein. He notes that this is exactly what
happens in sarcasm.

David Gil: "In Jakarta Indonesian, (almost) exclusively with the verb
_tahu_ "know", a specific intonation contour can be used as the sole
marker of negation, in place of the usual overt segmental negative
marker.  The intonation contour involves low tone and lengthening of
the penultimate syllable followed by a short high-tone final syllable.
I once heard a speaker using the same construction with another verb,
_mau_ "want", to mean "not want"."

The same phenomenon takes place in other Malay dialects, among others
Ambonese Malay. Here the tone pattern on /tau/ 'know' is high level.
Although it is risky to make such a claim as a non-native speaker, I
get the impression that there is a paralinguistic load involved,
namely the expression of impatience or the unwillingness to
communicate on a topic.

Very interesting/surprising was the reply from John
Lynch. Whereas all the evidence of the prosodic expression of negation
in spoken language involves pitch/tone/f0 as the prosodic encoding of
negation, he tentatively expresses the opinion "that the Hula and
Aroma languages (Austronesian languages spoken just to the east of
Port Moresby in PNG) mark negation by vowel length. Subject-TAM is
marked by prefixes (partly portmanteau) to the verb; thus in Aroma:
  pana-thao  'I will go'
  pono-thao 'you will go'
  pene-thao 'he will go'
The negative forms of these are paana-thao, poono-thao and peene-thao."
Roland Pfau mentions another language in which negation is expressed by
vowel lengthening: Nanai, spoken in Siberia.

Malcah Yaegar-Dror replied that there is an entire bibliography on the
prosodic marking of negation. While not listing any studies, he says
that he is willing to provide references. One place where they may be
found is the the "Journal of Pragmatics 34(10/11), and many of the
references cited in the introduction and particularly in the articles
by Yaeger-Dror & Kaufmann.

References to negation in sign languages from the Hamburg data base
www.sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de/bibweb/ ; courtesy of Bencie Woll:

   * Webb, Rebecca / Supalla, Ted: Negation in international sign. In:
Ahlgren, Inger / Bergman, Brita / Brennan, Mary (eds): Perspectives on
sign language structure: Papers from the Fifth International Symposium
on Sign Language Research. Vol. 1; Held in Salamanca, Spain, 25-30 May
1992. Durham : isla (1994) - pp. 173-186

   * Ellenberger, Ruth / Moores, Donald F. / Hoffmeister, Robert J.:
Early stages in the acquisition of negation by a deaf child of deaf
parents.  Unpubl. Research Report 94, Univ. of Minnesota. 1975 - 40
p. Report (unpubl.)

   * Pilleux, Mauricio: Negation in Chilean Sign Language. In:
Signpost 4: 4 (1991) - pp. 25-28

   * Coerts, Jane: Nonmanual grammatical markers. An analysis of
interrogatives, negations and topicalisations in sign language of the
Netherlands. 1992 - 234 p.: Amsterdam, Univ. Dissertation

   * Coerts, Jane: The analysis of interrogatives and negations in
SLN. In: Prillwitz, Siegmund / Vollhaber, Tomas (eds): Current trends
in European Sign Language Research. Proceedings of the 3rd European
Congress on Sign Language Research. Hamburg July 26-29,
1989. (International Studies on Sign Language and Communication of the
Deaf; 9) Hamburg : Signum (1990) - pp.  265-277

   * Veinberg, Silvana: Nonmanual negation and assertion in Argentine
Sign Language. In: Sign Language Studies 22: 79 (1993) - pp. 95-112

   * Bergman, Brita: Manual and nonmanual expression of negation in
Swedish Sign Language. In: Bos, Heleen F. / Schermer, Gertrude
M. (eds): Sign Language Research 1994: Proceedings of the Fourth
European Congress on Sign Language Research, Munich, September 1- 3,
1994. (International Studies on Sign Language and Communication of the
Deaf; 29) Hamburg : Signum (1995) - pp. 85-104

   * Veinberg, Silvana / Wilbur, Ronnie B.: A linguistic analysis of
the negative headshake in American Sign Language. In: Sign Language
Studies 19: 68 (1990) - pp. 217-244

   * Deuchar, Margaret: Negative incorporation in three sign
languages. In: Kyle, Jim (ed): Sign and school. Using signs in deaf
children's development.  (Multilingual Matters; 33) Clevedon :
Multilingual Matters (1987) - pp.  35-43

   * Veinberg, Silvana: The linguistic function of non-manual markers
for negative, asseverative and interrogative statements in Argentine
Sign Language. w/o year Manuscript (unpubl.)

   * Subtle messages. American Sign Language lessons in non-manual
grammatical markers. Colorado Springs, CO : Subtle Impact Software,
Inc.  1995 (Software)

   * Bergman, Brita: Manuell och ickemanuell negation i svenska
teckenspråket. (Forskning om Teckenspråk; XIX) Stockholm : Stockholms
Universitet 1995 - 19 p.

   * Anderson, Diane / Reilly, Judy S.: The puzzle of negation: How
children move from communicative to grammatical negation in ASL. In:
Applied Psycholinguistics 18: 4 (1997) - pp. 411-429

   * Wood, S.: Syntactic and semantic aspects of negation in
ASL. 1999: Purdue Univ. Diploma Thesis

   * Ferreira-Brito, Lucinda: Negacao em uma Lingua de Sinais
Brasileira.  [Negation in Brazilian Sign Language]. In: Documentação
de Estudos em Lingüística Teórica e Aplicada 10: 2 (1994) -
pp. 309-327

   * Pfau, Roland: Shake your heads, heads for shake! Negation in
DGS. Paper presented at the UiL OTS mini-symposium on sign linguistics
Utrecht, March 7. 2000

   * Pfau, Roland: Accessing nonmanual features in phonological
readjustment: Sentential negation in German Sign Language. Paper
presented at the TLSC "The Effects of Modality on Language and
Linguistic Theory," February 25-27. 2000 Manuscript

   * Pfau, Roland: Typologische und strukturelle Aspekte der Negation
in Deutscher Gebärdensprache. In: Leuninger, Helen / Wempe, Karin
(eds): Gebärdensprachlinguistik 2000 - Theorie und Anwendung :
Vorträge vom Symposium "Gebärdensprachforschung im deutschsprachigen
Raum", Frankfurt a.M., 11.-13. Juni 1999. (Internationale Arbeiten zur
Gebärdensprache und Kommunikation Gehörloser; 37) Hamburg : Signum
(2001) - pp. 13-31

   * Antzakas, Klimis / Woll, Bencie: Head movements and negation in
Greek Sign Language. Paper presented at Gesture Workshop 2001 London
18th-20th April. 2001 Manuscript

   * Lee, Jafi: On two negative markers in Hong Kong Sign
Language. Paper presented at the Conference on Sign Linguistics, Deaf
Education and Deaf Culture in Asia 17th - 19th December 2001. 2001

   * Skant, Andrea et al: Negationsformen in der Österreichischen
Gebärdensprache. In: Schulmeister, Rolf / Reinitzer, Heimo (eds):
Progress in sign language research. In honor of Siegmund Prillwitz /
Fortschritte in der Gebärdensprachforschung. Festschrift für Siegmund
Prillwitz.  (International Studies on Sign Language and Communication
of the Deaf; 40) Hamburg : Signum (2002) - pp. 163-185

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