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Double negation and iconicity

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Typological research suggests that double negation – the use of two negative markers to denote one negative meaning – is a popular strategy amongst a wide variety of languages. This paper focuses on two types of double negation. The first type, exemplified by Fr. Je ne chante pas ‘I don’t sing’, consists of a discontinuous sentence negator. The second type consists of a sentence negator and a negative indefinite pronoun or adverb as in I don’t see nothing. Iconicity is in the first type related to the language change known as Jespersen’s Cycle leading towards the double negative structure. The second type is arguably one of two possible strategies to avoid the less iconic use of a negative indefinite pronoun.

This talk is part of the Workshop "Formalism and Functionalism in Negation" series.

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