Negative Concord is Syntactic Agreement
Hedde Zeijlstra
April 2008

In this paper I first argue that Jespersen’s original idea that there is a strong correlation between NC and the syntactic status of negative markers is correct in a unidirectional sense: every language that has a negative marker X° is a Negative Concord (NC) language (provided that n-words are present). Furthermore I present an explanation of NC that takes it to be an instance of syntactic agreement and I demonstrate how this analysis correctly accounts for the readings of sentences containing multiple negative elements, both in NC and in DN languages. Moreover, I show how different types of NC have to be accounted for and I argue that the syntactic agreement approach correctly predicts the unidirectional generalisation concerning NC and the syntactic status of negative markers. Finally I compare this approach to other approaches of NC. Apart from the fact that those approaches do not predict this unidirectional generalisation, I also argue that these approaches (the Negative Quanitifier approach, the Negative Polarity Items approach, Herburger’s analysis of n-words being lexically ambiguous and Watanabe’s analysis of NC as a side effect of focus agreement) all face problems that the syntactic agreement approach does not suffer from. On the basis of the data and considerations presented in the paper I conclude that NC is indeed an instance of syntactic agreement between a single negative operator that may be phonologically abstract and one or more negative elements that are morpho-syntactically, but not semantically marked for negation.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/000645
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Amsterdam
keywords: negation, negative concord, negative markers, double negation, agreement, formal features, syntax, semantics
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