Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

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Despina Oikonomou (ZAS Berlin)

Negation in Greek imperatives

In this talk I discuss Negative Imperatives in Greek showing that i) they differ from negated subjunctives and ii) that in some environments negation scopes above the imperative operator (cf. Zanuttini 1994, Rivero & Terzi 1995, Han 2000, Zeijlstra 2006, 2017, Kaufmann 2012).

The first part of the talk focuses on the nature of negative imperatives in Greek. As it has long been observed Greek belongs to the set of languages which lacks True Negative Imperatives (TNI) and uses a surrogate form (Zanuttini 1994, Rivero & Terzi 1995, Zeijlstra 2006). However, I depart from previous analyses showing that Surrogate Negative Imperatives (SNI) are not identical to Negated Subjunctives as has been assumed so far (Rivero & Terzi 1995) but rather SNIs keep all their imperative proterties, except from their morphology. This is shown by the fact that SNIs (1a) and Negative Subjunctives (1b), differ in exactly the same ways that Imperatives differ from Root Subjunctives.


Surrogate Negative Imperative
Min figis.
EG leave.PERF.2SG
'Don't leave.'

Negative Subjunctive
Na    min figis.
'Don't leave.'

Therefore, I argue that the same operator is involved in positive and negative imperatives and that their morphological difference is not due to the nature of the imperative operator but due to an addressee-feature on imperative mood which fails to be realized under negation.

Having shown in the first part that the same operator is involved in both positive and negative imperatives in Greek, the second part of the talk deals with the different scope possibilities between negation and the imperative operator. As Iatridou (2008) discusses, under a modal approach to imperatives, negation could in principle take high scope above the modal operator (cf. Zeijlstra 2017). Indeed, I show that in Greek there are environments in which negation seems to scope above the imperative operator. Moreover, in such environments the only possible reading is that of a command/prohibition (permission readings do not emerge in these environments), providing further support for the idea that the imperative operator starts out as a possibility modal as argued in Oikonomou (2016).