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Sentential negation in Brazilian Portuguese

Abstract/Résumé: Sentential negation in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) may be accomplished through three different kinds of structures: Neg1 [Neg VP], Neg2 [Neg VP Neg] and Neg3 [VP Neg]. This distribution is quite rare in natural languages, which usually feature only one structure to express sentential negation, with an optional structure to convey a discourse function. In the linguistic literature, it is frequently claimed that the Neg1 structure is the only one devoid of syntactic restrictions. Such an idea has been presented as an argument for its character as the standard negation form in BP. Schwenter (2005) have explained the other two constructions in terms of information structure. However, he also recognizes some differences between Neg2 and Neg3 informational status. In this study, I seek to describe the occurrence of these structures in BP in attempt to formulate an analysis that would consider both distributive characteristics and possible interpretations of these structures. Neg2 and Neg3 forms have strong syntactic restrictions, once they are not both possible in wh-questions or in embedded time clauses. In my analysis I have noticed that, in addition to the differences between the standard form and the other ones, there are syntactic and semantic-pragmatic distinctions between the Neg2 and Neg3. Therefore I consider them to be separate phenomena: Neg3, as I have observed, is impossible in all kinds of embedded clauses, with undefined subjects or even when conveying new information, as it is restricted to response contexts; Neg2, on the other hand, is only incompatible with infinitive or embedded time clauses and narrative contexts, and is unrestricted as to the type of subject or type of information conveyed, that is, whether new or given. Despite the Neg2 restrictions, this structure and the standard Neg1 are very similar, which lead me to treat them as semantic negations. Since Neg3, unlike the other two structures, occurs solely in the context of response and does not allow for polarity items, I have defined it as a structure marking pragmatic focus. By taking into account that Neg2 is not acceptable either in infinitival sentences or in sentences introduced by temporal conjunctions, I put forth that the second negative item is merged in the T domain. Besides, given the incompatibility of Neg2 with narrative contexts in which there are no propositions but rather a sequence of events, I have defined this structure as a semantic negation taking scope over proposition as opposed to Neg1, which takes scope over situations. From a theoretical standpoint, I have related the Neg1 structure to vP phase, Neg2 to the CP phase and Neg3 to the left periphery. Reference: SCHWENTER, Scott. (2005). The pragmatics of negation in Brazilian Portuguese. Lingua 115:1427-56.