University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This paper examines the syntax of the French ne...que exceptive construction. For exceptive sentences like je ne lis que le journal ‘I don’t read anything but the newspaper’, no satisfactory minimalist account has been given for the nature of the negation, the syntactic status of que, and the source of the exception semantics. Although ne is typically analyzed as the negative head, and que as a complementizer, in this construction, the distribution of these morphemes is anything but typical. While ne normally depends on a second negative element in the sentence, in ne…que none is required. A complementizer like que is expected to select a full clause, but in ne…que, a finite clause is the only type of phrase disallowed after que. In the spirit of lexical economy, this paper provides an analysis for ne…que that grants no special status to either ne or que, instead assimilating the construction to the syntax of a reduced clausal comparative. If the exception phrase following que is in fact the remnant of an elliptical relative clause adjoined to an optionally covert NPI, the syntactic properties of ne…que cease to be problematic.