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Spanish negation and negative concord: A minimalist approach

Juan Antonio Pena, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Sentential negation is a grammatical structure and phenomenon far more complex than most grammar books seem to imply. It links syntax with semantics, pragmatics and possibly psychology. Because of this characteristic, negation is an interesting and serious topic.^ This dissertation aims at fulfilling two goals: First, to probe how the new grammatical theory, Minimalism (Chomsky 1992), behaves with regard to Spanish; and, two, how it can better and more easily describe the phenomenon called Negative Concord (NC), by which two or more negative words only convey one negative meaning. Minimalism imposes some principles which are new to grammatical models. Therefore, any previous analysis has to be refitted according to the new theory.^ Based on the imposing ideas of economy of representation and derivation, and that movement is quite restricted, the analysis proposed here clearly shows that Minimalism can account for Spanish single and double (meaning negative concord) negation. The way to accomplish this is simple, straight and economical. The small complexity Minimalism adds to the grammatical system of negation is clearly offset by the many important advantages the present paper will show the new model to convey.^ Earlier works on negation have worked around specific topics, depending on the theoretical background at the moment. In recent times, controversial topics included negative polarity items, neg transportation, and nature and position of the negative marker. These questions are also covered in this work, and it will be shown how Minimalism can easily account for their behaviour in a simple manner. The way the theory presents sentences, the distinction between those two sorts of elements is no longer available. Not only this, it will also be clear how the overall derivation of a negative sentence in Spanish can be effortlessly achieved if Minimalism is employed. Some important conclusions will be reached, some of which are very different from what was assumed in earlier grammatical models.^ As a further stimulus in favour of the new concept of Universal Grammar, an attempt is made to show how Minimalism can help understand negation in English. As a final conclusion, it will become obvious that Minimalism is a powerful model, able to explain phenomena in an easy and simple manner. It will bring the nature of Universal Grammar one step closer to our understanding. ^

Subject Area

Linguistics|Modern language|Language

Recommended Citation

Pena, Juan Antonio, "Spanish negation and negative concord: A minimalist approach" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9510520.