Negative raising

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Dec 2 12:15:29 UTC 2011

Just to clarify: the passage of mine cited by Paolo refers to colloquial 
Indonesian, not to English.
> Dear Linguistlist members,
> David writes: <<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". >>. Especially if you have a binary choice (such as 
> “smart/not-smart”, or “right/wrong”, “just/not just”) the first and 
> usual meaning of MARY NEG THINK JOHN /X /is exactly MARY THINK JOHN IS 
> NOT /X/. Whether we have ‘NEG-raising’ or not is another question, 
> namely if you believe in ‘movement metaphors’ (Daniel)
> Paolo
> *From:* Everett, Daniel <mailto:DEVERETT at BENTLEY.EDU>
> *Sent:* Friday, December 02, 2011 12:08 PM
> *Subject:* Re: Negative raising
> Martin,
> Thanks for this. Aside from my clumsy use of the "S-comp" phrase, I 
> was purposely trying to avoid using Neg-raising, because, though it is 
> a well-established term, I was trying to focus on the scope phenomena 
> without a movement metaphor. Or standardized terminology (which I am 
> not a big fan of). Also, I am mainly interested in non-European 
> languages, which I don't believe Larry Horn or anyone else has done a 
> survey of.
> From the replies that I have received so far there seems to be 
> considerable variation as to whether languages allow this or not (I 
> will post a summary at some point).
> These are excellent references, of course. Thanks for mentioning them.
> -- Dan
> On Dec 2, 2011, at 5:26 AM, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
>> 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.
>> Martin
>> 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

David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at

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