• David Burnley


In discussing negation we should first of all be aware that we are dealing with a feature of language meaning, with a logical category. Like time reference or modality, it may be indicated by the formal devices of language in a variety of ways, and not merely by the use of a few words beginning with n. Indeed, although the words no, never, and nobody are immediately recognisable as bearers of negative force, negation can also be traced in such words as deny, refuse, and reject. In modern English this is possible semantically, by invoking paraphrase, but also grammatically by demonstrating the co-occurrence with them of certain characteristic forms. Assertions (imperative and declarative statements) are followed in some cases by forms distinct from those following non-assertions (questions and negatives).1 Thus the assertions:
  • Give him some pencils.

  • There are some pencils.


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  1. 1.
    Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum, A University Grammar of English (London: Longman, 1973) pp. 184–6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W. Labov, ‘Negative Attraction and Negative Concord in English Grammar’, Language, XLVIII (1972) 773–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. See also George B. Jack, ‘Negative Concord in Early Middle English’, SN, L (1978) 29–39.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Morton Donner, ‘Derived words in Chaucer’s Language’, Chau. R., XIII (1978) 1–15.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    This view, together with the example (D 500) is quoted from E. T. Donaldson, ‘Gallic Flies in Chaucer’s English Word Web’, in Donald M. Rose (ed.), New Perspectives in Chaucer Criticism (Norman, Oklahoma: Pilgrim Books, 1981) pp. 193–202.Google Scholar

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© David Burnley 1983

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  • David Burnley

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