Query: Negation and case marking

Matti Miestamo matti.miestamo at HELSINKI.FI
Fri Oct 30 10:41:25 UTC 2009

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 Miestamo

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