Nobody doesn’t like negative concord

Mora Maldonado*, Jennifer Culbertson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Languages vary with respect to whether sentences with two negative elements give rise to double negation or negative concord meanings. We explore an influential hypothesis about what governs this variation: namely, that whether a language exhibits double negation or negative concord is partly determined by the phonological and syntactic nature of its negative marker (Zeijlstra 2004; Jespersen 1917). For example, one version of this hypothesis argues that languages with affixal negation must be negative concord (Zeijlstra 2008). We use an artificial language learning experiment to investigate whether English speakers are sensitive to the status of the negative marker when learning double negation and negative concord languages. Our findings fail to provide evidence supporting this hypothesised connection. Instead, our results suggest that learners find it easier to learn negative concord languages compared to double negation languages independently of whether the negative marker is an adverb or an affix. This is in line with evidence from natural language acquisition (Thornton et al. 2016).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Early online date12 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • artificial language learning
  • Jespersen’s generalization
  • negation
  • negative dependencies


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