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Negation and Irreal Modality in Mayan Languages

Abstract/Résumé: In the most of the modern Mayan languages negation is in a strict connection with the category of irrealis (also called subjunctive mood). Generally, the Mayan irrealis is used in the following contexts: counterfactual conditions, desire, goal, doubt, imperatives, approximateness, indefiniteness. The scope of use of irrealis may also include negation. There are several types of interaction between the categories of negation and irrealis in the Mayan languages. It is a continuum that could be presented as a scale with languages that do not mark negative contexts with irrealis at all on the one end and languages that do obligatorily mark all negative contexts with irrealis on the other end. Irrealis is never used with negation in Chorti, Mam, Sipakapense, whereas negation is always accompanied by irrealis in Kiche, Kaqchikel, Tzutujil. The languages that use irreal marking only for a part of negative contexts are in the middle part of the scale. Four groups of languages could be singled out. The languages of Yukatekan branch of the family mark with irrealis only verbal predicates that express (unrealized) perfect aspect under negation. The next type of negative-irreal interaction is presented in Tzotzil and Jacaltec: irrealis is used when a non-verbal predicate is negated. With verbs, irrealis is never used. In Akatek and Tzeltal irrealis is used not only with non-verbal negated predicates but also with verbal predicates in progressive aspect. Finally, irrealis is used with all types of predicates including finite ones in Cholan branch of the family; but irrealis is not obligatory in this case and so differs from Kiche or Kaqchikel discussed above. The type of interaction between negation and irreality depends to a certain degree on the morphological features of irreal marker. In languages that mark all negative contexts with irrealis, it is usually expressed by a postpositive particle. In languages that do not combine negation with irrealis, it tends to be expressed by a prefix. The languages from the middle part of the scale tend to express irrealis by a suffix. Thereby, we can derive some conclusions for Mayan languages that could be treated in typological perspective and possibly could be of some significance for linguistic theory. Under negation, non-finite predicates are considered as more irreal than finite ones. Moreover, negative progressive and perfect aspects are considered as more irreal than other aspectual categories.