Negative raising

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Dec 2 10:26:11 UTC 2011

The phenomenon that Dan Everett was trying to describe goes by the 
well-established term "negative raising" (see

The most detailed discussion of it is perhaps still Larry Horn's 
treatment in his "Natural history of negation". The only broadly 
cross-linguistic discussion of the phenomenon that I am aware of is ch. 
9 of the following book:

Bernini, Giuliano & Paolo Ramat. 1996. /Negative sentences in the 
languages of Europe: a typological approach/. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

They looked at 45 languages of Europe and found very little variation 
worth reporting. All seem to be more or less like English or Hebrew in 
this regard.


On 01/12/2011 23:04, David Gil wrote:
> Dan and all,
> I'm suspect many other LINGTYP readers, and not just me, are not sure 
> what you mean by "an S-comp rule".
> The colloquial varieties of Indonesian that I am familiar with do not 
> have an overt complementizer.  And indeed, if you say something like 
> MARY NEG THINK JOHN SMART, this can not usually be taken to mean "Mary 
> thinks that John is not smart".  Are you suggesting that these two 
> facts are related?
> I have argued elsewhere that the Indonesian/English contrast is one 
> manifestation of a general tendency for Indonesian to be more iconic, 
> or "Behagelian", in its constituency than languages like English.  So 
> I would also be very interested to learn how common so-called 
> "neg-raising" is cross-linguistically -- with or without a 
> complementizer.
> David
> PS rereading your query, I can add that Hebrew works like English.
>> I am interested in knowing whether a certain pattern is more or less 
>> common. The question is whether languages with an S-comp rule usually 
>> have the possibility of negation switching scope across the matrix 
>> clause into the subordinate clause. So for example, in English in 
>> examples like "Mary doesn't think that John is smart" one meaning of 
>> this is that "Mary thinks that John isn't smart."
>> My question is whether English is rare or not. Even in English, the 
>> features seems to be limited to epistemic verbs, like "think".
>> So do readers of this list know of non-Indo European languages with 
>> this type of negative scope possibility? If so, is it limited to 
>> specific classes of verbs?
>> If you'd rather respond to me off-line, that is fine. I will later 
>> post a summary if there are enough answers.
>> Thanks,
>> Dan

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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