Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 26, Issue 3–4, pp 281–335 | Cite as

The good, the ‘not good’, and the ‘not pretty’: negation in the negative predicates of Tlingit

  • Seth CableEmail author


This paper develops and defends a semantic/syntactic analysis of a curious set of negative gradable predicates in the Tlingit language, and shows that the analysis has some important consequences concerning the range of crosslinguistic variation in degree constructions. In Tlingit, certain negative gradable predicates are formed by negating a positive root and then applying an additional morphological operation: e.g. k’éi ‘good’, tlél ukʼé ‘not good’, tlél ushké ‘bad’. I show that (i) the negation in forms like tlél ushké ‘bad’ is VP-external, clausal negation, and is not an incorporated negation like English un-; and (ii) the meaning of these forms is indeed that of a gradable negative predicate, rather than the propositional negation of the positive predicate (cf. tlél ukʼé ‘not good’). Under the proposed analysis, the additional morphological operation observed in these forms is the reflex of a special degree relativizer, one that must undergo movement to Spec-NegP. In addition, Tlingit differs from English and other languages in that degree operators—like POS and comparative operators—can be attached high in the clause, above sentential negation. In addition to capturing various facts concerning these negative predicates, the proposed analysis raises some novel puzzles concerning intervention effects in the movement of degree operators, and provides support for the view that negative predicates like bad are morphosyntactically derived from positive predicates like good.


Gradable predicates Degree semantics Degree movement Cross-polar nomalies Intervention effects Tlingit 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst, Integrative Learning CenterAmherstUSA

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