Negative SOV Word Order - any parallels or ?

Larry M. Hyman hyman at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Apr 30 18:38:48 UTC 2002

Our field methods class is working on an Upper Cross language of
Nigeria, Legbo. This group of languages has the property of "SVO"
word order in the affirmative, but "SOV" in the negative, e.g.

(1)	Object + locative (affirmative)

	a.	ba	ké	lídzil	N-kE	ìzOOn
		they	put	food	in	pot
                 'they put food in a pot'

	b.	*ba	N-kE	ìzOOn	lídzil   ké

(2)	Object + locative (negative)

	a.	bE	lídzil	N-kE	ìzOOn	bE	áaà	ké
		they	food	in	pot	they	neg	put
                 'they didn't put food in a pot

	b.	*bE	ké     lídzil	N-kE	ìzOOn	bE  áaà	ké

As also seen, subject marking is different (except for tone, the bE
'they' in the negative is identical to the object pronoun bE in fact).

We also can prepose from a serialized or embedded clause in the negative:

mm       vONi  taa   n   dEi  gedze
1sg-neg  want  that 1sg  buy  yams      'I don't want to buy yams'

OR (alternative):

gedze  mm    vONi taa   n   dEi
yams 1sg-neg want that 1sg  buy

(but not *yams I want that I buy)

Our best hypothesis is that there once was a negative verb in second
position, which does appear (as bi) in non-root subordinate clauses,
e.g. relatives:

badum  sE  akE  ba   bi  lidzil  N-kE  izOOn  bE   aà  ke
men  the   REL they NEG  food     in    pot   they neg put
'the men who didn't put food in the pot'

It could therefore be that the original second-position negative verb
fell out in main clauses only.

Does anyone know of any parallels to this SVO vs. SOV ordering having
to do with negation (or anything else that "rings a bell"?). Let me
know if anyone would like more information--there's A LOT more going

Thanks very much.



Larry M. Hyman                                 Tel:   (510) 643-7619
Professor & Chairman (through June 30, 2002)   Dept.: (510) 642-2757
Department of Linguistics                      Fax.:  (510) 643-5688
University of California, Berkeley CA 94720

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