The History of Standard Negation in Semitic

University dissertation from Uppsala : Department of Linguistics and Philology

Abstract: This thesis provides a synchronic description of verbal negation in over fifteen Semitic languages and a historical assessment of these expressions. The objectives are to describe the expression of standard negation in these languages, to compare these negative clauses with their affirmative counterparts as well as  expressions of non-standard negation, and to relate historically the negative expressions of different languages. The thesis consists of three parts: 1) Introduction, 2) Presentation and analysis of the material, and 3) Concluding discussion.Part 1 describes the scope, method, texts, and theoretical framework used for the investigation. The scope is limited to verbal negation. This delimitation is based on the observed tendency that the finite verb plays a crucial role in expressing negation. The texts are selected from Semitic languages that are genealogically, typologically, and historically distinct, and attest to different expressions of negation. It is argued that the inclusion of these Semitic languages informs the historical assessment of the negative expressions and provides the necessary means for investigating variation. It is further assumed that aspects of linguistic form are determined by function, that functional grammar can provide explanations for constructional variation, and that variation must be elicited from the text corpus.Part 2 is an in-depth investigation of negative verbal clauses in authentic texts. The material is exhaustively presented according to language, clause type, and negative expression. The grammar of negative verbal clauses is described and evaluated from the viewpoint of functional grammar and grammaticalization theory, and the expression of negation is evaluated historically by internal reconstruction.Part 3 provides a summarizing and concluding discussion. It is concluded that renewal in the expression of standard negation in Semitic often results from the reanalysis of emphatic negative constructions and scale reversal contexts. While negative constructions tend to be innovative with regard to the marking of emphasis, they are often conservative with regard to the marking of other functional categories, including tense, aspect, and mood. The conservative nature of negative verbal clauses is manifested in asymmetries between negative and non-negative expressions. Two verbal negators are reconstructed to Proto-Semitic: 'l? and '?al-. '?al- is reconstructed as a prohibitor that expresses both volition and negation. The verb form used in a clause with '?al- was a zero-grammatical verbal morpheme marked for person, number, and gender. The verb form used for this purpose is yvqtvl/iprus (the short prefix conjugation). 'l? was used for the negation of all other verb forms, including yvqtvl/iprus when the illocutionary point of the clause was non-directive. In Ancient South Arabian, Modern South Arabian, and Ethiosemitic languages, however, '?al- was generalized as a standard negator. This reanalysis coincides with the development of yvqtvl in these languages.

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