Double Negation in Catalan and Spanish. Interaction Between Syntax and Prosody

  • M. Teresa EspinalEmail author
  • Susagna Tubau
  • Joan Borràs-Comes
  • Pilar Prieto
Part of the Language, Cognition, and Mind book series (LCAM, volume 1)


This study focuses on the interaction between prosody and syntax in the interpretation of single negation and Double Negation in two Negative Concord languages, namely Catalan and Spanish. By means of two perception experiments, we investigate the role of two major formal conditions in the interpretation of Double Negation in Catalan and Spanish answers to negative wh-questions: (a) their intonation; and (b) their syntactic structure, which contain n-words such as Catalan ningú ‘nobody’ or Spanish nada ‘nothing’. The results reveal that (i) syntax and prosody interact: prosodic contours enhance processing of syntactic structures; (ii) isolated and preverbal n-words may convey DN interpretations when associated with a special intonation; and (iii) Catalan and Spanish hearers show form-meaning preferences between syntactic forms and prosodic contours: interestingly, hearers do not reject marked forms that should be discarded by a theory of grammar that only takes into account syntactic constituents and their merging possibilities according to their formal features, but they interpret them in the only way they can be interpreted, as a presupposition denial.


Double negation Syntax Prosody n-words Negative concord languages Catalan Spanish 



We would like to thank the students and colleagues at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid who participated in the perception experiments as Catalan and Spanish subjects, respectively, and especially V. Castillo, A. Fasanella, E. Gallardo, Y. Gutiérrez and C. Rubio, who participated in the audio recordings. We are also grateful to our colleagues at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, namely L. Eguren, O. Fernández-Soriano, and J. M. Igoa, for helping us in the recruiting of the Spanish subjects. This research has been funded by two research grants awarded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (FFI2011-23356, BFU2012-31995), and by two grants awarded by the Generalitat de Catalunya to both the Centre de Lingüística Teòrica (2014SGR-1013) and the Grup d’Estudis de Prosòdia (2014SGR-925). The first author also acknowledges an ICREA Academia award.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Teresa Espinal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susagna Tubau
    • 2
  • Joan Borràs-Comes
    • 3
  • Pilar Prieto
    • 4
  1. 1.Department de Filologia CatalanaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Filologia AnglesaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Translation and Language SciencesUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

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