Negation in vernacular Brazilian Portuguese

Date
2013-05
Authors
Martínez, Cristina, active 2003
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Abstract

As Haegeman and Zanuttini (1996:117) discuss, when two negative elements are present in a specific syntactic domain, two possible situations may arise: "(i) the two negative elements may cancel each other out, or (ii) the two elements may contribute, together, one single instance of negation". The former 'negation cancellation' is referred to as Double Negation and can be exemplified in the standard English sentence 'I didn't say nothing', meaning 'I said something'. In many languages, traditionally known as Negative Concord languages, we can find the second scenario, where two or more negative elements can co-occur in the same sentence without applying the 'negation cancellation' rule. The most common example of the Negative Concord phenomenon consists of a sentential negation (NEG) co-occurring with a negative word. This is shown in Spanish examples such as "Juan no llamó a nadie" (literally: 'Juan didn't call nobody') meaning 'John didn't call anybody'. Another less common type of exception occurs when two sentential negations (NEG+NEG) are phonologically realized in the same sentence. This phenomenon is traditionally known as Discontinuous Negation. The following example is from Bukusu (Bell, 2004): Peter SEalaba akula sitabu TA 'Peter will NOT be buying a book (NOT)'. The language I examined in this dissertation, Vernacular Brazilian Portuguese, can combine both types of Negative Concord cases in the same sentence, as we see in the example "Não ligou ninguém não (literally: 'Nobody didn't call not') meaning 'Nobody called'". Another unique characteristic of this variety that distinguishes it from the rest of the Romance languages is the optional deletion of the preverbal NEG. Though the post- verbal negative words require a preverbal negation, working as their licensor, the use of the post-sentential NEG makes the example "Ligou ningum não 'Nobody called'" grammatically correct. The main purpose of my dissertation is to present a different approach to what has been traditionally seen as the Negative Concord and Discontinuous Negation. These two complex negation phenomena stem from the same syntactic source, as they are two versions of the same syntactic derivation. Based on data from Vernacular Brazilian Portuguese, I demonstrate that there is no "concord" or "discontinuity" relationship between the negative elements in "Não ligou ninguém não", since there is only one negative item in the sentence: the pre-verbal NEG não.

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