Syntactic properties of sentential negation. A comparative study of Romance languages

Raffaella Zanuttini, University of Pennsylvania


Every natural language can express the negation of a proposition p. However, while the semantic result of negating p is uniform, the syntactic means employed to do so vary. This dissertation argues that, from the syntactic point of view, there is no unitary notion of negation. The negative markers employed by different languages, or even by the same language, to express sentential negation exhibit different syntactic properties. Focusing on the study of Romance languages, this dissertation will first define what possibilities are available to the grammar and how they are realized in different languages. Then it will show that the syntactic properties which characterize the distribution of negative markers also determine their interaction with other components of the grammar and the mapping into a particular semantic result. We will focus on a set of closely related languages within the Romance family and study the properties of negative markers, i.e. elements of the type of Italian non, French pas, etc., as well as some properties of negative quantifiers. We will suggest that, although all negative markers appear within a functional projection NegP, such NegP's can be realized in two distinct structural positions: above and below the functional projection TP, the syntactic realization of tense. Italian non, for example, is the head of a functional projection labeled NegP-1, which selects TP as its complement, while French pas is the specifier of a functional projection labeled NegP-2 which occurs lower than TP in the structure and is therefore not dependent on the presence of tense for its appearance. This characterization, together with a distinction in terms of X-bar theory, can account for the distributional properties of these negative markers as well as for their behavior in imperatives and in the presence of clausemate negative quantifiers. This work is of interest descriptively, since it brings together data from many varieties of Romance, as well as theoretically, since it sheds light on the syntactic properties of sentential negation, on the relation between functional categories, and on the structure of the clause.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Zanuttini, Raffaella, "Syntactic properties of sentential negation. A comparative study of Romance languages" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200407.