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Not on the edge

The syntax and pragmatics of clause-initial negation in Swedish

Abstract

The possibility of topicalizing sentential negation is severely restricted in the Germanic V2-languages. In this paper, we show that negative preposing was more frequent and less restricted in earlier stages of Swedish: approx. 8 % of all occurrences of negation are clause initial in Old Swedish, compared to less than 0.5 % in present day Swedish. We propose that this change in frequency can be traced to the syntactic status of the negative element. More specifically, we argue that Old Swedish eigh ‘not’ may function as a syntactic head and cliticize to the finite verb in [C0]. This possibility is not open to the XP inte ‘not’ in Modern Swedish. In Modern Swedish, we argue that the restrictions on negative preposing instead are related to more general pragmatic restrictions on the information expressed in [Spec,CP]: according to our hypothesis, negative preposing is licensed by contrast.

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Correspondence to Johan Brandtler.

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Johan Brandtler’s research has been funded by a grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Sweden.

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Brandtler, J., Håkansson, D. Not on the edge. J Comp German Linguistics 17, 97–128 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10828-014-9068-4

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Keywords

  • Old Swedish
  • Modern Swedish
  • Topicalization
  • Negation
  • Diachronic change
  • Spec, CP
  • Germanic languages