Project B03 "Syntactic and morphological interactions of negation – a cross-linguistic study"

Principal investigators: Prof. Katharina Hartmann & Dr. Johannes Mursell

The main goal of this project is to investigate the interaction of negation with other functional elements in the clause in representative languages of two distinct language families of the Niger-Congo phylum, the Mabia and the Bantu languages. The central theoretical hypothesis is that morpho-syntactic interactions are found with most of the central functional projections along the sentential spine, especially at the phase edges, with formal and functional variation at their respective peripheries. The project mainly focuses on interactions of sentential negation and the expressions of tense, aspect (vP periphery), as well as focus, and imperatives (both CP periphery). The languages to be investigated in this project all show a very rich inventory of elements for the expression of the various functional domains. For this reason, we consider that the Mabia and Bantu languages are ideal for the investigation of negation and its different possible interactions and that the expected results will reveal properties of negation that cannot be investigated in better-studied languages to the same extent, given the absence of such effects in these languages. In addition, despite the many differences that exist between these two only distantly related language families, the interactions between negation and the respective functional projections exhibit striking similarities between the Mabia and Bantu languages. We believe that these similarities are mostly due to the more general properties of negation and its components, and are not just due to a common proto-language.

Thus, the project represents an ideal testing ground for the evaluation of negation between the two opposing central hypotheses of the CRC, the Neg-Plus and the Neg-Only hypothesis, given the rich array of overtly visible interactions at different syntactic levels. The project directly investigates the general question of area B of the CRC (and all of its subquestions):

How can we explain similarities and interactions between negation and other grammatical categories?”

In the second and third funding periods of the CRC, we plan to extend our data base building on the hypotheses that were developed in the first phase. We will also investigate more complex phenomena such as the Neg-raising and negative polarity.