Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

6. Conclusion

Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

6. Conclusion

Article excerpt

In this paper I have investigated some asymmetries in the distribution of GoN and ni-phrases in Russian. The paradigms have previously been discussed under the heading of EN. A special variety of negation without negative force is invoked by these theories. As discussed at the outset, such theories are made up of four components:

(8i) a theory of ni-phrase licensing (under regular negation), which explains the contrast between (2a) and (2c);

(8ii) a theory of GoN licensing (under regular and expletive negation), which explains the contrast between (1a) and (1c);

(8iii) a theory of the triggers for EN, which explains the contrast between (7) and (2a);

(8iv) a theory which gives content to the notion of expletiz)e negation as opposed to regular negation to explain the contrast between (7) and (6). For Brown and Franks (1995, 1997), EN is characterized by an inactive operator. For Brown (1999a, b), it is characterized by the absence of a negation feature.

The theories of locality and timing for GoN and ni-phrase licensing are needed independently of EN as indicated, i.e., the modules (8i) and (8ii) cannot be eliminated. The theory of triggering environments for EN is also needed independently (8iii). Once these three subtheories have been stated with sufficient care and precision, as I have tried to do in this paper, there is no more need for a special theory giving content to the notion expletive negation (8iv).

A number of interesting results were obtained on the way to a more precise statement of the subtheories (8i-iii). First of all, ni-phrases turn out to be universal quantifiers (recall the crucial example (31)). They must be licensed syntactically by Spec-Head agreement with negation, and semantically, they must take negation in their immediate scope. Second of all, GoN is licensed on-line and the locality conditions on GoN licensing follow from Relativized Minimality once it is assumed that GoN is structural Case. Finally, there is no evidence (beyond a vague intuition) that expletive negation is indeed semantically vacuous. On the contrary, evidence has been given to show that negation is semantically active in the relevant contexts.

An issue that has not been addressed here is the question of the extent to which the same treatment carries over to expletive negation in other languages, in particular in Romance (see in addition to the sources already cited Espinal 1997; Muller 1978; Portner and Zanuttini 2000 among others). No easy answer is possible. The distributional similarities between expletive negation in Russian (and other Slavic languages, which have been ignored here for the most part) and expletive negation in Romance suggest that we are dealing with a unified phenomenon. This is also the most probable hypothesis on grounds of learnability, since the principles involved are quite abstract. The main obstacle to a simple unification of the Romance with the Slavic case is that in Romance, according to standard descriptions, expletive negation is optional. Of course, these descriptions are not universally accepted (see Tovena 1996, 1998, where arguments are provided that the optionality of expletive negation is only apparent). Another way to go might be to treat the exponent of expletive negation (e.g., ne in French) as an NPI (see van der Wouden and Zwarts 1993), which might help explain why it only optionally surfaces and only in the prestigious dialect. This behavior of ne in French is paralleled in cases of regular negation (colloquial: J'ai pas peur 'I am not afraid' vs. standard: Je n'ai pas peur).

I hope to take up these and many related questions in future work.

* I would like to thank Zeljko Boskovic, Lydia Grebenyova, Stephanie Harves, Luisa Marti, Ora Matushansky, Nobu Miyoshi, Barbara Partee, Natalja Rakhlin, Arthur Stepanov, and Tania Ionin for discussion, examples and support and Evan Mellander for proofreading the manuscript. …

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