Query: Negation and case marking

Eduardo R. Ribeiro kariri at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 2 16:02:12 UTC 2009

Hi, Matti,

In Northern Jê languages (Central Brazil), negation triggers an ergative 
pattern in transitive constructions.  The verb is actually in its 
nominalized form, and the ergative pattern can be seen as a result of the 
limited argument structure of deverbal nouns, which can only have one 
internal argument, the absolutive one (not unlike in Latin, as described by 
Benveniste, or English, as described by Chomsky in "Remarks on 

The "ergative" pattern is triggered not only by negation, but by any 
situation that requires a nominal form of the verb (the future, for 
instance, which is marked by an allative postposition).

Several grammatical descriptions of individual Northern Jê languages (some 
of which deal specifically with this topic) are available online, including 
the following:

The Language of the Apinajé People of Central Brazil
Oliveira, Christiane Cunha de. 2005

Flexão relacional, marcas pessoais e tipos de predicados em Xikrín:
Contribuição para os estudos sobre ergatividade em línguas Jê
Costa, Lucivaldo Silva da. 2003

Pronomes, ordem e ergatividade em Mebengokrê (Kayapó). Orientação: Charlotte
Galves. Mestrado, Unicamp
Silva, Maria Amélia Reis. 2001

O timbira falado pelos Canela Apaniekrá: uma contribuição aos estudos da
morfossintaxe de uma língua Jê
Alves, Flávia de Castro. 2004



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Matti Miestamo" <matti.miestamo at HELSINKI.FI>
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 6:41 AM
Subject: Query: Negation and case marking

> Dear Colleagues,
> it is rather well-known that negation affects case marking in some Uralic
> and Indo-European (Slavic, Baltic) languages as well as in Basque. I'm not
> aware of any large-scale typological studies of the interaction of case
> marking and negation and haven't looked at it systematically myself
> either, but having examined other aspects of negation in a large number of
> languages, my impression is that such effects occur quite rarely outside
> Europe. I'm now planning to examine the phenomenon typologically and I'm
> posting this query to get more information on languages where negation
> affects case marking in some ways.
> The following examples illustrate the case alternations in Finnish:
> (1) Finnish (constructed examples)
>  a. söin        banaani-n
>     eat.PST.1SG banana-GEN
>     'I ate a/the banana.'
>  b. söin        banaani-a
>     eat.PST.1SG banana-PART
>     'I {ate some / was eating a/the} banana.'
>  c. en      syönyt       banaani-a
>     NEG.1SG eat.PST.PTCP apple-PART
>     'I didn't eat / wasn't eating a/the banana.'
> In these examples, the object of the affirmative may be either genitive or
> partitive (with meaning distinctions having to do with quantification,
> aspect etc.), but in the negative only the partitive is possible. (The
> situation is actually more complex, and the nominative is used instead of
> the genitive in some environments, but these examples suffice to
> illustrate the phenomenon for the present purposes.) Related case
> asymmetries between affirmatives and negatives are also found in some
> existential sentences in Finnish, where subjects can be either nominative
> or partitive in the affirmative but the negative has to use the partitive.
> Alternations are not restricted to affixal case marking. In French
> negatives the partitive marker de occurs instead of indefinite articles in
> most contexts: Je mange une pomme 'I eat / am eating an apple' / Je ne
> mange pas de pomme 'I do not eat / am not eating an apple'.
> I would be grateful for any pointers to languages where case marking (or
> the marking of nominal participants more broadly) is affected by negation.
> I will post a summary to the list, so you may reply off-list if you like.
> Best wishes,
> Matti
> --
> Matti Miestamo
> <http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~matmies/>

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