Chapter published in:Negation and Negative Concord: The view from Creoles
Edited by Viviane Déprez and Fabiola Henri
[Contact Language Library 55] 2018
► pp. 33–68
What is negative in Haitian Creole? Negative Concord Items, sentential, constituent and expletive negation
Negative sentences in Creole languages, provocatively claimed to be the world ‘simplest languages’ (Mc Whorter 2001), commonly present a puzzling multiplicity of redundant negative expressions with a single negative interpretation that appear to systematically violate logical compositionality. An intriguing solution to this puzzle proposes that, contrary to appearances, negation is entirely abstract in Creoles, i.e. solely represented by a phonologically null operator dubbed NEG (Homer 2013; Zeijlstra 2004 and following) and has, de facto, no actual direct morpho-phonological exponent. On this, view, not only expressions like pèsonn `nobody’ or anyen `nothing’ are not negative, but neither is the morpheme pa. Revisiting Haitian Creole negative dependencies on the basis of novel data drawn from a corpus of Haitian writings and internet data, this paper critically reviews this approach, showing that it makes a number of incorrect predictions, both with respect to the distribution of Negative Concord items (NCIs) as well as with the morpheme pa, especially on its so called ‘expletive negation’ use, which is investigated here for the first time. The paper argues for a less radical solution that brings Haitian negative dependencies in line with other classic NPI dependencies, claiming that Haitian NCIs are in fact strong NPIs that can be licensed by sentential negation under reconstruction. The puzzle, hence, receives a different solution, keeping with the idea that NCI are non-negative expressions, but also with the more concrete view that pa is the core negation morpheme in Haitian.
Keywords: Negative Concord Item, Expletive Negation, Constituent Negation, Negative Polarity Items
Published online: 12 December 2018
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