On prohibitive and expletive negations
Alda Mari, Chloe Tahar
June 2020

In this paper we study the diachronic development of expletive negation from Indo-European to French, through Latin. We show that the negative expression 𝑛𝑒 (from Indo-European 𝑚𝑒) is found in two contexts in Latin: imperatives and priority attitudes. We propose a unified semantics for these contexts, that leaves room to accommodate a distinction between positive (e.g. order/wish) and negative (e.g. forbid/fear) priority attitudes. We argue for an ambiguity account of 𝑛𝑒 driven by these two types of attitudes, and argue for a distinction of a prohibitive 𝑛𝑒 acting as a true negation in the context of imperatives and positive priority attitudes and an expletive 𝑛𝑒, reversing the value of the ordering source of trigger with negative priority attitudes. We show that, in French, only expletive negation survives the Jespersen Cycle and offer a principle explanation for the distributions observed. We also show how our account can be extended to expletive negation in the context of epistemic attitudes conveying a meaning of contrariness such as doubt thus establishing a unified semantics for attitudes that cuts across priority and epistemic ones.
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Reference: lingbuzz/005260
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: negative priorities, prohibitive negation, expletive negation, imperatives, semantics
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