Negation in Kulina
A double polarity swap
This study reconstructs the development of a negative existential and a negative pro-sentence in the Arawan language Kulina (Brazil-Peru). We demonstrate that the two elements forming the negative existential construction nowe (hi)ra- are involved in a double polarity swap: (i) an originally neutral lexical item (the dynamic verb nowe ‘show’) has become negative through contamination, and (ii) an originally negative element (hi)ra-, which was responsible for the contamination, is bleaching into a semantically neutral auxiliary. This lexeme nowe, with the auxiliary used only optionally, also functions as a negative pro-sentence now. Thus, synchronically we have a negative pro-sentence that has its origin in a semantically-neutral lexical item. Neither the source of the negative pro-sentence nor this diachronic path has surfaced in the literature on negation so far and thus they are instructive from diachronic and typological perspectives. The hypothesis enriches the literature on both the Jespersen Cycle and the Negative Existential Cycle.
Keywords: negative existential, negative pro-sentence, semantic bleaching, diachrony of negation, Jespersen Cycle, Negative Existential Cycle
Published online: 29 October 2019
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