Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Jovana Gajić (Göttingen)


Negative coordination as a (cross-linguistic) misfit of Negative Concord

Many (but not all) languages make use of special coordination markers in negative sentences ('Mark has neither read the book nor seen the film.'). Case studies of such markers exist for a small number of languages (Aranovich 2006, Doetjes 2005, Gonzalez & Demirdache 2015, Herburger 1999, Paperno 2014, Hendriks 2004, Wurmbrand 2008, inter alia), but without a cross-linguistic comparison. The major question is whether such constructions should be analyzed as conjunctions scoping over negation or as disjunctions in the scope of negation, these two representations being logically equivalent. I argue that both configurations are indeed attested in natural languages and that this strongly correlates with the Negative Concord status of the given language. Double Negation languages (Standard English or German) are thus predicted to have inherently negative conjunction-based coordinators, whereas in Negative Concord languages merely formally negative disjunctions are expected. As shown before (Gajić 2016), Serbo-Croatian fits into this picture.

However, many puzzles remain. The talk will focus on French, which fails some tests for the conjunction status, yet cannot straightforwardly be analyzed as a non-negative disjunction, inside Zeijlstra (2004, 2008) system. Different solutions will be explored. Along with French, other quirky cases of negative coordination across languages will be shown, raising the question of whether and how coordination can be understood with respect to the syntax and the semantics of negation.