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Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46
www.elsevier.com/locate/lingua

Three types of negation in Brazilian Portuguese


Lilian Teixeira de Sousa

UFBA, Rua Bara o de Jeremoabo, 147, Campus de Ondina, Cep 40.170-115 Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Received 2 February 2014; received in revised form 1 March 2015; accepted 9 March 2015
Available online 8 April 2015

Abstract
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. This idea has been presented as an argument for its status as the standard negation
form in BP. Schwenter (2005) has explained the other two constructions in terms of information structure. However, he also recognizes some
differences between the informational status of Neg2 and Neg3. In this study, I aim to describe the occurrence of these structures in BP in an
attempt to formulate an analysis that considers both distributive characteristics and possible interpretations of these structures.
2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Negation; Proposition; Event; Brazilian Portuguese

1. Introduction
Several typological studies (Dahl, 1979; Payne, 1985; Jespersen, 1917) have distinguished three formal possibilities
for expressing sentential negation in natural languages: preverbal, Neg1; embracing, Neg2; and post-verbal, Neg3.
Brazilian Portuguese (BP),1 however, exhibits all three structures,2 all of which are productive and not in competition:
(1)

a.

b.

A Ana nao/num3 foi ao teatro (Neg1)


the Ana neg/neg-CL went-2PS to the theater
Ana didnt go to the theater
Eu nao
/num fui no teatro nao
(Neg2)
I neg/neg-CL went-1PS to the theater neg
I didnt go to the theater

* Tel.: +55 7132836207.


E-mail address: liliantsousa@gmail.com.
1
EP also displays the three types of negation found in BP, but Neg2 and Neg3 are even more restricted in their distribution and licensing
conditions. Neg2 in EP, unlike in BP, can only be interpreted as metalinguistic negation, and the final clause na o is not integrated with the clausal
spine, which may be recognized because of the presence of a pause between the sentence and the negative item. According to Pinto (2010),
Neg3 in EP expresses metalinguistic negation, but, unlike in BP, it cannot appear in answers to polar questions; the negative item is also
separated from the sentence spine by a pause and there is always an explicit rectification.
2
South Brazil is an exception. According to Teixeira de Sousa (2012), people from south Brazil only recognize Neg1 as part of their dialect.
3
In the preverbal position, the negative item nao is frequently reduced to the clitic form num.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2015.03.003
0024-3841/ 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

28

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

c.

Fui no teatro nao(Neg3)


went-1PS to the theater neg
I didnt go to the theater

The possibility of multiple sentential negations is frequently associated with a process of language change called
Jespersens Cycle. Jespersen noted that the position of the negation may indicate different stages of a particular
language. The process of change, according to him, historically begins with preverbal negative elements which are
reduced and incorporated into the verb while other post-verbal elements emerge and acquire a negative valence. Dahl
(1979) continues Jespersens work, suggesting the existence of a negative cycle with the following stages: Neg V > Neg V
Neg > V Neg. In this process of language change, the co-occurrence of more than one negative structure is expected
during a certain period of time, as result of two grammars in competition.4
Despite the Neg3 and Neg2 possibilities, BP is assumed to be a language where negation is expressed in terms of a
pre-verbal element, since Neg3 has a discursive function and the clause-final na o in Neg2 structures is taken as an actual
negative concord item (see Biberauer and Cyrino, 2009a,b; Vitral, 1999; Cavalcante, 2007). The possibility of negative
concord, per se, means that BP is a language where the head is lexically realized. According to Wood (1997), if the
negation is in the head position, it is weakened and does not interfere with a second negative. If the negative alternation in
BP does not represent a stage of Jespersens Cycle, in which the head of the NegP is not lexically realized, what would be
the nature of the negative alternation in BP?
The first studies on this topic (Schwegler, 1991; Roncarati, 1997) associated the alternation of negative structures to
emphasis or pragmatic presupposition, i.e., the embracing and post-verbal forms were understood as denials of someone
elses belief. Recently, Schwenter (2005) has argued that the presuppositional explanation of the function of these
structures cannot be supported empirically. According to him, the non-canonical negative structures are related to
information structure: the proposition denied by embracing negation, for instance, is contextually activated. In this paper,
I will argue that the difference between the three structures is not precisely related to emphasis, presupposition or context
activation but to their interpretation as either event, propositional or metalinguistic negation. According to this approach,
each type of formal negation in BP has a different interpretation.
The paper is organized as follow: in section 2, I discuss the two main approaches to sentential negation in BP -emphasis/presupposition (Schwegler, 1991; Cavalcante, 2012) and activation by context (Schwenter, 2005). I examine
data on embracing and post-verbal negation in BP, which cannot be explained by presupposition or context activation. In
section 3, I also present some arguments that show that each type of negation has restrictions due to its interpretation.
Section 4 concludes the paper by summarizing the results.
2. Negation in BP
2.1. Negative alternations in BP: emphasis, presupposition and context activation
Analyses of the alternation of negative structures in BP tend to associate the occurrence of the non-canonical forms
Neg2 and Neg3 with pragmatic issues. Without effectively distinguishing between the three structures, especially
between Neg1 and Neg2, certain authors allude to reinforcement or emphasis, to presuppositional negation or to content
activated by context. In this study, I will bring new evidence showing that Neg2 cannot be treated the same way as Neg3,
given that Neg2 functions as semantic negation, unlike post-verbal negation, which, according to analyses from previous
studies, is strictly discursive. In this section, I will discuss some approaches to alternation of negative structures in BP, with
respect to the following topics: emphasis/presupposition and context activation.
Schwegler (1991) was one of the first researchers to address the issue of multiple negations in BP and the first to
distinguish Neg2/3 from Neg1. For him, the non-canonical forms are distinguished from the canonical in that they are used
to contradict presuppositions. Though Schwegler does not use the word emphasis, it is implicit from his indication of the
presence of intonational prominence in these structures. Roncarati (1997) also refers to Neg2 as implicitly emphatic and
restricts Neg3 to the sentence sei na o5 (I dont know). Furtado da Cunha (1996) refers to contrary to expectation, and
Biberauer and Cyrino (2009a,b), who are the first to distinguish Neg2 from Neg3 as different structures, speak of
reinforcement.
The notion of emphasis, previously underscored by Schwenter (2005), is not clearly specified in studies about the
alternation of negative structures in BP. According to the author, the role of emphasis in explaining this alternation is

4
New approaches (Biberauer, 2009; Gelderen, 2008; Ingham, 2007) have recognized that the process may stop at one of the steps involved,
resulting in structural reorganization. It might have occurred in BP. Such an analysis, however, would need a historical approach.
5
The sole occurrence in the corpus she collected.

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

29

related to the idea of reinforcement, described as an important step of Jespersens Cycle. In this case, the use of an
additional negative element (Neg VP Neg) is interpreted as emphasis, but, as the author himself adds, there is no
necessary relationship, intuitively, between reinforcement and emphasis; despite containing an additional negative
element, Neg2 seems no more emphatic than Neg1.
According to Schwenter (2005), a distinction between the non-canonical structures Neg2 and Neg3 that focuses on
emphasis does not cover certain facts about their use in BP, because only Neg2 has the additional phonological element
to justify the interpretation of these structures as emphasis.
Understanding emphasis as creating prosodic prominence, one can observe that prominence may occur in a preverbal nao in Neg1 structures or even in the clitic num, which indicates that, unlike the French ne, the pre-verbal negative
marker in BP maintains the property of emphasis. This characteristic is even clearer in contexts of expletive negation, in
which the nao
/num has no negative value, but rather one of emphasis:
(2)

E na o/num cheguei atrasada! (=I was really late!).


and neg/neg-CL arrive late

Thus, I validate Schwenters intuition (2005) that the criterion of emphasis cannot distinguish between the three
structures. That is, if the pre-verbal nao in BP, despite having a clitic form, is still able to receive prosodic prominence
fluently as well as negate the sentence on its own, it is not logical to consider the co-occurrence of another negative
element as having the sole function of reinforcement. This leads to the conclusion that the information simply denied, or
emphatically denied in the case of a structure using pre-verbal nao
, and that of an embracing structure ([Neg VP Neg]),
are not effectively the same. Thus, it also does not seem correct to analyze the Neg2 structure as negation with greater
emphasis ([Nao+neg VP Nao+emphasis]).
Regarding the emphatic nature attributed to Neg2 by various authors (Biberauer and Cyrino, 2009a,b; Furtado da
Cunha, 1996; Schwegler, 1991), I propose that this is not sufficient to explain the use of this structure, given that the
preverbal nao in BP, despite having a clitic form, is able to receive prosodic prominence and can itself be emphatic.
Although Neg2 may be interpreted as emphatic, as we shall see, this is not a characteristic intrinsic to the structure.
Stressing Schwenters point, given that negative polarity items have the same emphatic function on negative information -Eu na o tenho um centavo no bolso (Im completely broke), the label emphasis is insufficient to distinguish the
phenomenon of two co-occurring negative items in the structure [Neg VP Neg] from other clearly distinct phenomena.
Cavalcante (2012) also rejects the explanation of the final nao structures as emphasis. According to him, the structures
Neg2 and Neg3 do not encode emphasis, given that the structure with the negative marker nada ([VP nada]), in a
complementary distribution with [VP Neg], is the emphatic negative structure of BP. In this proposal, the Neg2 and Neg3
structures are related to the negation of presupposed content.
Regarding the description of the Neg2 and Neg3 structures being related to presupposition, Schwenter states that this
term is also used to describe canonical negation, given that many authors (Horn, [1989]2001; Givon, 1978) argue that
negatives are more marked in terms of presuppositions when compared to affirmatives -- every negative sentence
presupposes an affirmative one. Thus, according to Schwenter, the presuppositional content would not suffice to
distinguish between the canonical and non-canonical forms.
Cavalcante (2012), however, claims that what distinguishes the post-verbal nao
is not precisely its presuppositional
nature, but rather the way in which the presupposition is placed in the discourse. According to him, in Neg1 case, the
negative sentence does not require the affirmative proposition to be previously introduced in the discourse, as it is the
negative sentence that draws the interlocutors attention to the embedded affirmative proposition. Meanwhile, Neg2 and
Neg3 sentences correspond to the negation/rejection of the proposition put forward or made available in the discourse.
Thus, for these kinds of sentences to occur, it would be necessary for the presupposed proposition to correspond to a
previous assertion, explicit or inferred from a communicative situation. This interpretation is quite similar to Schwenters
proposal of context activation (2005); however, as we shall see, there is an important distinction to be made between the
informative nature of the negated element and the use of Neg2 and Neg3.
On the idea of presupposition, Schwenter refers to the work of Stalnaker (1978, 1974) on pragmatic presupposition, in
which the author argues that presuppositions are taken from propositions located in the interlocutors common ground,6
but these presuppositions are not necessarily shared knowledge in the case of negations. Thus, considering the argument
that Neg2 in BP presupposes a previous affirmation or contradicts an assertion, it is understood that Neg2 contradicts a
proposition that is in the common ground, which indicates a pragmatic and not a semantic presupposition. Once again,
taking into account Stalnakers analysis, this explanation can be extended to Neg1. Schwenter argues, then, that Neg2

6
According to Stalnaker (1978), common ground may be defined as information that has been previously given in the discourse or
extralinguistic context and which is shared (or assumed by the speaker to be shared) between the listener and the speaker.

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L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

cannot be used to deny any pragmatic presupposition7 or proposition in the common ground, but would rather be
restricted to the negation of salient propositions.
In his analysis, Schwenter adopts Prices model (1992), which makes an important distinction between the status of the
discourse and the status of the listener of a referent NP, with two possible values for each: new and given. Neg2 in BP
would be, according to him, sensitive to the status of the discourse, but not of the listener. To justify his analysis, he offers
the following example:
(3)

[the speaker is walking down the street and remembers that she has left her oven on]
Nossa! (Eu) nao desliguei o fogao (#nao)!
damn (I) neg turned-off-1PS the stove (neg)
Damn! I didnt turn off the stove!
(Ex. (2a) -- Schwenter, 2005)8

According to Schwenter, the use of Neg2 in the above sentence is inappropriate because the statement is directed at
the speaker herself, which defines her as new in the discourse. If another interlocutor were added to the same scenario in
(3), the status of the discourse may be considered given and thus, according to the author, Neg2 becomes appropriate to
the context:
(4)

[the same situation as (3)]


A:
Voc desligou o fogao, n?
you turned-off-1PS the stove,
You turned off the stove, right?
B:
Nossa! Nao desliguei nao!
damn neg turned-off-1PS neg
Damn! I didnt turn it off!
(Ex. (2b) -- Schwenter, 2005).

In addition to the concepts of given and new, Schwenter holds that inferable propositions also have a role in the use of
Neg2. In the sentence below, the speaker infers that the interlocutor believes that it is cold; in this case, the use of Neg2 is
appropriate:
(5)

[the speaker sees the interlocutor putting on a coat that is much too heavy for the current weather]
Nao
t muito frio nao
!
neg is very cold neg
Its not very cold out!

Despite there being a breach of expectation in many data of Neg2, Schwenter argues that the use of Neg2 is not related
to the breach of expectation, but rather to a proposition activated by some given material. Thus, in an attempt to
understand the nature of Neg2, Schwenter then analyzes this structure using the typology of negations proposed by
Geurts (1998), which includes: (1) negation of proposition (descriptive negation); (2) negation of presupposition; (3)
implicature (scalar); and (4) form (pronunciation, lexical choice, etc.).
This typology further extends Horns ([1989]2001) already discussed binary distinction between descriptive negation
and metalinguistic negation. In this model, metalinguistic negation is divided into negation of the presupposition, the
implicature and the form. Thus, this perspective focuses on the target of the negations objection; that is, whether what is
being denied is a proposition, a presupposition, an implicature, or some aspect of linguistic form.
According to Schwenter, the use of Neg2 as negation of presupposition has already been established and offers, then,
some data that enable a judgment of whether this structure can also be used as a negation of presupposition, implicature
or form.
Regarding the presuppositional content, Schwenter offers evidence that Neg2 cannot be used in contexts in which the
presupposed content is not contained in the asserted content, but rather in a previous statement. Observe the contrast in
the following examples:

7
The speakers presuppositions, according to Stalnaker, may be considered those propositions whose truth is assumed as part of the
background of the conversation.
8
All word-by-word glosses in Schwenter examples were included in this paper.

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

(6)

a.

A:

B:

b.

A:

B:

31

O Joao j deixou de fumar.


the Joao already stopped-3PS of to-smoke
J. has stopped smoking.
Ele nao deixou de fumar (#nao). Ele nunca fumou.
he neg stopped of to-smoke (neg) I never smoked-3PS
He hasnt stopped smoking, he never smoked.
O Joao j deixou de fumar.
the Joao already stopped-3PS of to-smoke
J. has stopped smoking.
Ele nao deixou de fumar (nao), ele ainda fuma.
he neg stopped-3PS of to-smoke (neg) he still smokes
He hasnt stopped smoking, he still smokes.
(Ex. (14a--b) Schwenter, 2005).

In the examples presented in (6), the presupposition of statement A is that Joao has smoked in the past, and it is this
presupposition that is denied in (6a), considering what follows. Meanwhile in (6b), the interpretation made evident by the
continuation of the statement is that the negation applies to the asserted content and not to the presupposition. As the data
show, Neg2 is not appropriate when applied to presuppositional elements.
Also in cases of denying the implicature, Schwenter offers data that make the incompatibility of Neg2 with expressions
of scalar value evident:
(7)

a.

b.

Eu nao
gosto do meu professor (#nao
). Eu adoro ele!
I neg like-1PS of-the my professor (neg) I adore-1PS he
I dont like my professor, I adore him!
Eu nao gosto do meu professor (nao). Eu odeio ele!
I neg like-1PS of-the my professor (neg) I hate-1PS he
I dont like my professor, I hate him!
(Ex. (15a--b) Schwenter, 2005).

While in (7a) it is the scalar value of the verb gostar (like) that is denied, as shown by the subsequent use of the verb
adorar (adore), in (7b) it is the truth of the proposition Eu gosto do meu professor that is denied, as occurs in a descriptive
negation. Thus, it is clear that Neg2 is also not appropriate when applied to scalar values.
Analyzing the fourth type of negation, negation of form, Schwenter once again demonstrates the distinction between
Neg1 and Neg2:
(8)

a.

A:

B:

b.

A:

B:

Ele trouxe (trsi) feijao pra festa.


he brought-3PS beans to-the party
He brought [incorrect pronunciation] beans to the party
Ele nao trouxe (trsi) feijao (#nao), ele trouxe (trowsi) feijao.
he neg brought-3PS beans (neg) he brought-3PS beans
He dindt (trsi) beans, he (trowsi) beans.
(=metalinguistic form denial)
Ele trouxe (trusi) feijao pra festa.
he brought-3PS beans to-the party
He brought [incorrect pronunciation] beans to the party
Ele nao
trouxe feijao (nao
), trouxe arroz.
he neg brought-3PS beans (neg) brought-3PS rice
He didnt bring beans, he brought rice.
(=propositional negation)
(Ex. (16a--b) Schwenter, 2005).

In (8a), the target of the negation and subsequent correction of statement A is the phonetic realization of the verb form
trouxe, which is pronounced as (trusi). Meanwhile, in (8b), the target of the negation is not the pronunciation of the verb,
but rather the truth of the proposition Ele trouxe feija o pra festa. Thus, Neg2 is also inappropriate when applied to lexical or

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L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

register choice. Therefore, Schwenter concludes that Neg2 in declarative sentences is strongly restricted to propositions,
so that it corresponds to descriptive negation.
According to Schwenter, this result is surprising, in a way, given that Neg2 is intuitively considered emphatic, which is a
common aspect of metalinguistic negation, given that they are more costly to process and have an effect of temporary
ambiguity (Garden-path).
To bolster his hypothesis, Schwenter offers examples in which Neg2 and Neg1 have different interpretations:
(9)

A:

B1:

B2:

O Joao votou no Lula?


the Joao voted-3PS for-the Lula
Did Joao vote for Lula?
(Nao.) Nao votou nao.
neg neg voted-3PS neg
(No.) He didnt vote (not)
(Nao.) Ele nao
votou.
neg he neg voted-3PS
(No.) He didnt vote (for anyone)
(Ex. (17) Schwenter, 2005).

According to Schwenter, responses B1 and B2 are not equivalent. The interpretation of B1 is that Joao did not vote for
Lula, but voted for another candidate; meanwhile, the interpretation of B2 is that Joao did not vote for anyone. Thus,
Schwenter holds that, apparently, the function of the final nao
in Neg2 structures is to index the response with the most
accessible given proposition. Testing this same context among native speakers of BP, I notice that none of the informants
had any doubt about the interpretation of B1 as Joao did not vote for Lula; sentence B2, meanwhile, was considered to be
ambiguous by most of the speakers, possibly meaning either Joao did not vote for Lula, or Joao did not vote for anybody.
The justification for the ambiguity, however, does not seem to be related to the type of negation, but rather to the presence of
the subject in B2, which indicates that there was no movement of the verb to a higher category (P) (see Oliveira, 2000).
In certain contexts, according to Schwenter, both Neg2 and Neg3 can be used. A typical example would be responses
to yes-no questions:
(10)

A:

B:

Voc gostou da palestra da Maria?


you liked-2PS of-the talk of-the Maria
Did you like Marias talk?
Gostei nao
.
liked-1PS neg
I didnt
(Ex. (24) Schwenter, 2005).

In the above data, Neg3 could just as easily be substituted by Neg2. However, as Schwenter points out, both of these
forms are not always possible in the same context:
(11)

A:

B1:
B2:

Voc gostou da palestra da Maria?


you liked-2PS of-the talk of-the Maria
Did you like Marias talk?
#fui nao.
went-1PS neg
Eu nao fui nao.
I neg went-1PS neg
I didnt go
(Ex. (25) Schwenter, 2005).

The data above brings an important piece to our puzzle. The sentence in B2 introduces a new proposition rather than
answers the question Did you like Marias talk?. The comparison between (10) and (11) exhibits the key difference
between Neg2 and Neg3; while Neg2 can introduce new propositions, Neg3 is an actual answer, incapable of introducing
a negative proposition.
As previously argued, the contrast evident in the above example makes it clear that Neg3 is more restricted in its
discursive-pragmatic distribution than Neg2. It seems that Neg3 requires the negation of a proposition that has been
directly activated by the context of the question, as occurs in (10). As the negated proposition was not explicitly activated in
(11), only Neg2 was possible.

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

33

Schwenter further presents some data on Neg3 from the PEUL corpus9 in which an explicitly activated proposition is
also negated. This may be concluded, according to him, from the use of the same verb as the interviewer in the response
in every one of the examples analyzed:
(12)

E:

F:

Voc tem vontade de mudar um dia?


you have-2PS desire of to-move one day
Do you have a desire move someday?
Tenho nao.
have-1PS neg
I dont
(Ex. (26) Schwenter, 2005).

(13)

E:

F:

(14)

E:

F:

Mas voc cozinha. E voc deve ter algum prato que seus fregueses gostam mais. Qual ?
but you cook-2PS. And you must-2PS have some dish that your clients like-3PP more. what is
But you cook. And you must have some dish that your clients like most. What is it?
Ah, eu cozinho nao. Minha tia que cozinha!
ah I cook-1PS neg. My ant is that cooks-3PS
Ah, I dont cook, my aunt is the one that cooks!
(Ex. (27) Schwenter, 2005).
. . . Voc pode comparar isso. . . sensaao que voc tem, quando est desfilando na escola de samba?
you can-2PS compare that sensation that you have-2PS when is-2PS
parade-GER with-the school of-the samba
You can compare that. . . sensation that you have, when youre parading with the samba school
Posso nao, duas coisas diferente.
can-1PS neg, two things different
I cant, two different things.
(Ex. (28) Schwenter, 2005).

Schwenter holds, however, that the number of occurrences of this kind of structure in the corpus is too small for there to
be a concrete generalization. On the other hand, the work of Roncarati (1997) seems to include the same kind of
occurrence, that is, the repetition of the same verb present in a preceding question. Most of the data found by Roncarati
was the sei na o (I dont know) construction in response to yes/no questions.
Without elaborating the analysis of Neg3, Schwenter argues that this kind of structure may be understood as a subset
of Neg2, given that both require a proposition to be activated by content given in the discourse. The difference between the
two structures is in the restriction of Neg3 to contexts in which the proposition is directly activated in the current discourse.
As seen in Schwenters framework (2005), the preference for the type of negative structure in BP is strictly related to its
discursive status, whether it is new, inferable or explicitly activated.
The data presented by Schwenter on the negative structures Neg2 and Neg3 are extremely important for understanding
this construction in BP, given that they demystify the relationship between these structures and the pragmatic notions of
emphasis and presupposition. Two other issues brought up by the author are the indexical nature of Neg2 and, more
importantly, the use of this structure as a negation of a proposition. This last point has been essential to the development of
the present research. There are, however, relevant facts about negative structures in BP that were not discussed by
Schwenter and that are critical to understanding the simultaneous occurrence of three different negative structures in the
language.
Biberauer and Cyrino (2009a,b) also contrast Neg2 and Neg3 and present important contributions. These authors
clearly distinguish the two structures with respect to omission (ungrammaticality/change in meaning), modifiability,
stressability and increase in meaning (presupposition or reinforcement). According to them, Neg2 and Neg3 do not exhibit
identical behavior in terms of omissibility, na o3 (clause-final na o in Neg3) exhibits behavior very similar to the real negator,
although na o3 clearly does not work in the same range of negation contexts as the real negator. They also observe that only
na o3 is restricted to matrix clauses in the way anaphoric negators are in a more general sense as a consequence of their
occupying CP-structure not being projected in embedded clauses (cf. Poletto, 2008). In conclusion, they argue that na o2
and na o3 in fact derive from different sources: na o2 (clause-final na o in Neg2) is a genuine concord element, lexicalizing a
Pol-head, i.e. it is fully integrated with the clausal spine (cf. Laka, 1994); na o3 is not a concord element; it is related to the
anaphoric negator, which is not fully integrated with the clausal spine (cf. Zanuttinis (1997) NO).

This corpus consists of sociolinguistic interviews with Rio de Janeiro residents recorded in the 1980s.

34

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

An important issue considered by Biberauer and Cyrino (2009a,b) is that there are not only discursive, but syntactic
restrictions as well, on the occurrence of Neg2 and Neg3. As discussed, the use of Neg3 is not possible in any kind of
embedded clause, but according to the Teixeira de Sousa (2012), Neg2 is also incompatible with infinitive or temporal
embedded clauses.
(15)

b.
c.

d.

e.
f.

g.

h.
i.

j.

k.
l.

(16)
a.

b.
c.

(17)
a.

b.
c.

[Complement clauses]
A Maria acha que o Pedro nao comprou o carro.
the Maria thinks-3PS that the Pedro neg bought-3PS the car
M. thinks P. didnt buy the car.
A Maria acha que o Pedro nao comprou o carro nao.
the Maria thinks that the Pedro neg bought-3PS the car neg
*A Maria acha que o Pedro comprou o carro nao
.
the Maria thinks that the Pedro bought-3PS the car neg
[Subject clauses]
melhor nao ficar acordado at tarde.
is better neg stay awake until late
It is better not to stay up late.
melhor nao
ficar acordado at tarde nao
.
is better neg stay awake until late neg
* melhor ficar acordado at tarde nao.
is better stay awake until late neg
[Conditional clauses]
Se voc nao
for viajar mesmo, passa l em casa no fim de semana.
if you neg go-FUT-2PS travel surely go-by-2PS there in home at-the end of week
If you are not going traveling, come visit me at the weekend
Se voc nao for viajar mesmo nao, passa l em casa no fim de semana
if you neg go-FUT-2PS travel surely neg, go-by-2PS there in home at-the end of week
*Se voc for viajar mesmo nao, passa l em casa no fim de semana.
if you go-FUT-2PS travel surely neg, go-by-2PS there in home at-the end of week
[Non-defining relative clauses]
Tem poltico que nao rouba.
have-3PS politician that neg steal-3PS
There are politicians who do not steal.
Tem poltico que nao rouba nao.
have-3PS politician that neg steal-3PS neg
*Tem poltico que rouba nao.
have-3PS politician that steal-3PS neg
[Infinitive clauses]
Nao
fumar, faz bem sade.
neg to-smoke, do-3PS well to-the health
Not smoking is better for ones health.
*Nao fumar nao, faz bem sade.
neg to-smoke neg, do-3PS well to-the health
*Fumar nao
, faz bem sade.
to-smoke neg, do-3PS well to-the health
[Temporal clauses]
Eu nao durmo, enquanto minha filha nao
chega em casa.
I neg sleep-1PS until my daughter neg comes in home
I cant sleep until my daughter comes home.
*Eu nao durmo, enquanto minha filha nao chega em casa nao.
I neg sleep-1PS until my daughter neg comes in home neg
*Eu nao durmo, enquanto minha filha chega em casa nao.
I neg sleep-1PS until my daughter comes in home neg

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35

Moreover, regarding discursive restrictions, and in spite of Schwenters position, one can observe that, although the
Neg2 structure occurs more frequently with given information, the structure is also possible in contexts of new information.
Observe the following data:
(18)

A:

B:

Voc sabia que o professor Pedro foi assaltado?


you knew-2PS that the professor Pedro was robbed
Did you know that professor P. was robbed?
Nossa! Falando do Pedro, eu nao
entreguei o trabalho dele nao
.
damn speaking of Pedro, I neg gave-3PS the homework him neg
Damn! Speaking of P., I didnt give him my homework.

In the case above, only the subject, the teacher Pedro, is given information; the proposition, contrary to Schwenters
prediction, is new information and takes the Neg2 structure. Thus, it seems that it is the presence of propositions in the
discourse that leads to the occurrence of Neg2. The salience mentioned by Schwenter may come from the understanding
of Neg2 as propositional, which goes beyond a situation being denied.
Another characteristic of Neg2, which will be an important point in this analysis, concerns the incompatibility of this
structure in narrative contexts:
(19)

Maria acordou pela manha. Olhou pela Janela. Nao viu sinal de chuva (#nao
). Saiu sem seu guarda-chuva.
Maria woke-up-3PS in-the morning. looked-out-3PS at-the window. neg saw-3PS sign of rain (neg). left-3PS
without her umbrella
M. woke up in the morning, looked out at the window. She didnt see a sign of rain. She left without her umbrella.

Concerning Neg3, Schwenters analysis points in an interesting direction: the need for content explicitly activated in the
context. However, perhaps due to the limitations of the data to which he had access, some important questions on the
metalinguistic use of the structure went unraised. Applying the same tests used by the author on Neg2, it is evident that Neg3
is possible in every case: negation of a pragmatic presupposition, negation of a scalar value expression and negation of an
expression:
(20)

A:

B:

(21)

A:

B:

(22)

A:

B:

Eu vi a Maria com o p enfaixado. Ela quebrou o p?


I saw-1PS the Maria with the foot bandaged. she broke-3PS the foot
I saw M. with a bandaged foot. Did she break it?
Quebrou nao
.
broke-3PS neg
No, she didnt.
Isso vale a pena.
it worth-3PS the penalty
Its worth it.
Vale a pena nao. Vale a galinha inteira!
worth-3PS the feather neg. worth-3PS the chicken whole
Its really worth it.
O Joao bateu as botas
he Joao beat-3PS the boots
J. kicked the bucket.
Bateu as botas nao, faleceu.
beat-3PS the boots neg, passed-away-3PS
He didnt kick the bucket, he passed away.

Biberauer and Cyrino (2009a,b) do not mention the possibility of Neg3 being metalinguistic negation. According to their
analysis, this structure originates from short answers, which parallel those available in a positive context. This is also an
important context for the occurrence of Neg3:
Positive answers:
(23)

Q:

Voc tem muitas dvidas?


you have many debts
Do you have many debts?

36

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

A:

a.

b.

c.

d.

Tenho.
have.1SG
Yes
*Tenho muitas dvidas
have many debts
I have many debts
Sim, tenho.
Yes have.1SG.
Yes, I do.
Tenho, sim
have.1SG yes
Yes, I do.
(Ex. (28) Biberauer and Cyrino, 2009a,b).

Negative answers:
(24)

Q:

A:

a.

b.

c.

d.

Voc tem muitas dvidas?


you have many debts
Do you have many debts?
Nao.
no
No.
Nao, nao/num tenho.
No, not have.1SG
No, I dont.
Tenho nao
have.1SG not
I do not
*Tenho, nao.
(Ex. (29) Biberauer and Cyrino, 2009a,b)

The distribution of the three negative structures as presented in this section is summarized in Table 1, which takes into
account both new observations and facts reported in the literature:
Given the characteristics of Neg1, Neg2 and Neg3 presented above, it is clear that the three structures are not
equivalent; there are syntactic restrictions that, as we have seen, apply to Neg3 and not to Neg2. Also, in matters of
interpretation, it is evident that Neg2 may be used to negate new information, while Neg3 cannot. Furthermore, as has
been pointed out by Schwenter (2005), Neg2 denies only propositions, which qualifies it as a semantic negation; Neg3,
meanwhile, as shown in the data (20--22), is used as a metalinguistic negation. Neg1, on the other hand, is understood as
semantic negation over events, but it retains the possibility of metalinguistic negation expression. Thus, it is clear that the
three structures cannot be treated as a single phenomenon. Based on these conclusions, the next section will deal with
the nature of these structures.
Taking as a salient point the restriction against Neg2 in narrative contexts in both temporal and infinitival embedded
clauses, I propose that this structure corresponds, as does Neg1, to a semantic negation. The difference between Neg1

Table 1
Distribution of Neg1, Neg2 and Neg3 in BP.
Context

Neg1

Neg2

Neg3

1. Semantic negation
2. Metalinguistic negation (presupposition, scalar value, expression)
3. New information
4. Inferable/explicitly activated information
5. Complement clauses
6. Conditional clauses
7. Relative clauses
8. Infinitive clauses
9. Temporal clauses
10. Narrative

U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U

U
U
U
U
U
U
U
*
*
*

*
U
*
U
*
*
*
*
*
*

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37

and Neg2 is in the scope of what is denied: while Neg1 denies events, the scope of Neg2 includes propositions. Given the
pragmatic nature of Neg3, this structure is defined as an external or metalinguistic negation (Horn, [1989]2001).
3. Three structures, three negations
As previously mentioned, explanations of the negative alternation in BP are frequently related to pragmatic categories
such as presupposition or context activation. However, as I have claimed, many important syntactic restrictions on the
three negative structures are ignored by the majority of authors. In this section, I will argue that the constraints observed in
these structures are related to their interpretation as event, propositional or metalinguistic.
In the previous section, it was shown that Neg2 and Neg3 cannot be considered equivalent phenomena, as the
respective functions of these structures are not effectively equal; while Neg2 is close to Neg1 with regards to its semantic
interpretation, Neg3 is clearly discursively marked. With respect to the observed syntactic restrictions, it has been
demonstrated that Neg3 is far more restrictive than Neg2, the latter being excluded only in narrative contexts and in
temporal and infinitive subordinate clauses. According to Schwenter (2005), the Neg2 structures work precisely as
descriptive negation, since it is the proposition that is negated in these structures. However, if both Neg2 and Neg1
function as descriptive negations, how does one explain both the coexistence of the two forms in the language and the
restrictions associated with Neg2? In an attempt to account for this question, I will utilize the ternary division of the types of
negation described by Dahl (1979) and seek to associate them with different scopes.
In logical-semantic studies, negation is understood as an operation in which a sentence (S1) is converted into another
(S2), so that S2 is true if and only if S1 is false. Many authors (Dahl, 1979; Rajagopalan, 1982; Horn 1989[2001]) claim,
however, that this definition is insufficient, as it does not distinguish between types of negation. Dahl (1979), using English
sentences, asserts that it is possible to distinguish three types of negation:
(25)
(26)
(27)

It is not raining.
It is false that it is raining.
It is not the case that it is raining.
(ex. (1--3) Dahl, 1979)

All of the above sentences fit the same definition of negation. However, (25) is distinct from (26) and (27) in that it does
not contain an embedded clause, such that, from a grammatical point of view, it is a single sentence. The other two
sentences are better understood as denials of a previous statement or assumption made by an interlocutor, being thus
defined as external negation. In this type of negation, the negative sentence not S does not comment on the state of
affairs, but rather denies the truth of judgment S, which was previously stated or implied.
Negation is, thus, broken up into two basic kinds: internal and external. The distinction between these two types of
negation is oftentimes one of scope. Thus, the scope of a negation may be over the predicate, resulting in A is not B,
or over the statement, resulting in A is B -- is false. This distinction between internal and external negation may also
be called descriptive negation and metalinguistic negation, respectively. Therefore, although Dahl points to three
different structures in order to account for the different interpretations of a negation, it is normally divided into only
two types, namely the internal and the external. However, upon close analysis of sentence (26), one can observe that
it is the truth value that is at stake, unlike (25), which simply describes a state of affairs, and (27), which denies
the assertability of an utterance. The concept of a proposition, in semantic theory, is precisely that which can be
either true or false; thus, sentence (26) contains an explicit proposition negation structure. For Kratzer (1989),
a proposition is a set of possible situations10; propositions, then, would classify situations into either true or
false. Thus, if the structure in (26) negates a proposition, then the best interpretation of (25) is as event negation.11
Thus, three types of negation are distinguished: (i) negation of events, (ii) negation of propositions and (iii) metalinguistic
negation.

It is worth recalling that Kratzer prefers the term situation to event.


One of the most relevant works on the notion of event in formal semantics is, without a doubt, the article The Logical Form of Action Sentences
by Davidson, published in 1967. In his article, Davidson holds that many phenomena of natural language can be explained through logical forms
that can quantify over events. Among the phenomena cited by Davidson are nominalization, adverbial modification, factives, anaphora, plurals
and, of course, tense and aspect. Given its explanatory power, this model has gained many adherents over the years, but there is still some
resistance precisely because, as Kamp and Reyle (1993) point out, it is difficult to determine what events are and what general properties they
might possess.
10
11

38

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

3.1. Proposition, event and negation in BP


In order to better distinguish between Neg1 and Neg2, it is necessary to define both event and proposition. In
Davidsons view, events are entities about which an indefinite number of statements can be made. Thus, the relationship
between a sentence and its logical form is not univocal, but rather one with possible variation. This makes the introduction
of an existential quantifier critical. According to Davidson, a sentence like Amundsen flew to the North Pole in May 1926
does not describe an event, but if it is true, there must be an event that will make it true.
Among the various theoretical approaches to events (Kamp and Reyle, 1993; Kratzer, 1989, among others), the most
decisive criterion in the line of reasoning that will be followed is the recognition of events as either universal (things that
occur in different places and times) or specific (things that occur in a specific place and time). For this study, the approach
to events as specific is the most relevant. According to this perspective, events are indexically constructed to fill a spatiotemporal location. Thus, tense is understood as an extension composed of instants. These instants are what are termed
an event or eventuality. This relationship between time interval and instants is an important point in establishing the
concepts of event and proposition.
According to semantic theories, events speak to a state of affairs and are limited to instants along a time interval, while
the proposition is always defined in relation to a specific time, which comprises every instant within a time period (Kamp
and Reyle, 1993; Kratzer, 1995). Thus, a sentence such as Peter works in the garden does not make clear reference to a
time interval and, consequently, is interpreted as an event.
For Kratzer (1989), a proposition is a set of possible situations. This means that propositions classify situations into
either true or false. According to her model, a proposition p is true in a situation s if and only if s is contained in p. If p is not
true in s, then p is not necessarily false in s. The proposition p may not yet be true in s, but may become true in some
situation which contains s. Thus, it is observed that there is always an event associated with a proposition, but an event
may only be termed a proposition if it has a value of either true or false over a period of time x. Based on this, it is
understood that the davidsonian event in Kratzers model works as an argument for spatio-temporal situations.
Kratzer argues that propositions in natural languages follow certain restrictions. If a proposition is true in a situation s,
then it is true in any situation in which s takes part. Thus, the meaning of a (timeless) sentence like Socrates is in prison is
the set of all the possible situations in which some temporal state of Socrates is in prison. The meaning of the sentence
Socrates is in prison now is the set of possible situations in which the present temporal state of Socrates is in prison.
The tense of a statement appears as an interval and not as an instant. In order to assess the truth value of an assertion,
it is necessary to assert that something is true in any instant within a period of time. A sentence is true at the time of
statement t only if it is true at every instant included within t.
Some data that is revealing of the distinction between the interpretations of Neg1 and Neg2 may be obtained from the
interaction of these structures with distributive phrases introduced by cada (each). According to Negrao (2002),
predicates containing a distributive quantified phrase introduced by cada as the subject are only acceptable if the content
of the argument for spatio-temporal localizations is explicitly modified:
(28)

a.
b.

*Cada funcionria est grvida.


each employee is pregnant
Cada funcionria est grvida num perodo do ano.
each employee is pregnant at-a period of-the year
Each employee is pregnant at a certain time of year.
(Ex. (9--10b) Negrao, 2002)

In sentence (28b), the event argument of the stage level predicate is modified and thus the sentence is acceptable.
With this, the author concludes that in BP the distributive quantifier phrases introduced by cada require a modification of
this argument so that they may function as a domain of distribution; in these cases, then, for the sentences to be
acceptable, there must be a predicate with an argument structure containing an event argument. Observe in the data in
(29) the interaction between the distributive quantifier cada and the negative structures Neg1 and Neg2:
(29)

a.

b.
c.

Cada aluno leu um livro.


each student read-3PS a book
Each student read a book.
*Cada aluno nao leu um livro.
each student neg read a book
Cada aluno nao
leu um livro nao
.
each student neg read a book neg

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39

In the sentences above, it is evident that the structure with the distributive quantifier cannot interact with the Neg1
structure, but is acceptable in Neg2 sentences. As we have seen, cada, a strongly distributive quantifier, is acceptable in
predicates containing a temporal sequence of events, and the infelicity of sentence (29b) may be perfectly explained if it is
understood that the Neg1 structures associate the subject to only one event, precluding the distributive interpretation.
When cada appears in a Neg2 structure, the sentence becomes more acceptable, as the proposition is within the scope of
the negation, and thus over the entire temporal sequence. Therefore, there are arguments that are independent of the
interpretation of Neg1 as negation of events and Neg2 as negation of propositions.
As I have attempted to demonstrate in the beginning of this study, Neg2 distinguishes itself from Neg1 in three
additional essential contexts: narrative, infinitival and temporal embedded clauses. My proposed explanation of this
distinction is that the scope of Neg1 extends over events while the scope of Neg2 extends over propositions. If the
incompatibility of Neg2 with narratives, infinitival and temporal embedded clauses already indicates an event/proposition
distinction, its interpretation as referring to a complete time interval confers greater weight on our hypothesis.
Infinitives such as Na o fumar faz bem sade (Not smoking is better for ones health) are timeless sentences, which can
be interpreted as a general (usual, recurrent, predictable) truth, but not as a truth in a specific time. Since timeless sentences
do not make clear reference to a time interval, they are consequently interpreted as events. If Neg2 is negation over
propositions, while Neg1 is negation over events, the preference for Neg1 in infinitives rather than Neg2 (see examples (16a-c)) can be clearly associated to the Neg2 restriction to propositions, which are always defined in relation to a specific time.
Ramchand (2005) suggests that there is an event variable that assigns a referential nature to time. Thus, adopting
Reichenbachs (1947) and Giorgi and Pianesis (1997) approaches to temporal relations, she distinguishes two necessary
relations to a predication: (1) a relation between an event (E) and its reference time (R) and (2) a relation between the
reference time and speech time (S). Relation (2), S--R, distinguishes the notions of present, past and future, while relation
(1), E--R, distinguishes the aspectual notions of perfect, prospective and neutral.
In a matrix clause, the reference time is determined by adverbs or context, possibly generating a narrative reading.
When it comes to embedded clauses, it is important to understand the event-temporal relationship that is established with
the event expressed in the clauses. In this type of structure, the reference time in the embedded clause is established with
respect to the matrix clause; thus, the reference time in embedded clause is not determined by the context:
(30)

a.

b.

O Pedro acordou. (Depois) olhou pela janela.


the Pedro woke-up-3PS. (Then) looked-3PS out-the window
P. woke up. (Then) He looked out the window.
A Maria disse que se sentiu mal.
the Maria said-3PS that herself felt bad
M. said she felt bad.

In example (30b), the embedded clause se sentiu mal is linked to a time previous to the time of the matrix clause A
Maria disse. It means that the reference time of the embedded clause is fixed with respect to the time of speech expressed
in the matrix, before (past), after (future):
(31)

a.

b.

A Maria [disse+pas] que o Joao nao [foi+pas] festa.


the Maria said-3PS that the Joao neg went-3PS to-the party
M. said that J. didnt go to the party.
A Maria [disse+pas] que o Joao nao [vai+fut] festa.
the Maria said-3PS that the Joao neg go-3PS to-the party
M. said that J. isnt going to the party

On the other hand, one can observe that temporal clauses display an important characteristic with respect to the
determination of the time of the event.
(32)

a.

b.

O Joao [chegou+pas] quando a polcia [estava+pas] (*estiver+fut) aqui.


the Joao arrived-3PS when the police were-3PS (will be) here
J. arrived when the police were still here.
O Joao [vai chegar+fut] quando a polcia [estiver+fut] (*estava+pas) aqui.
the Joao will arrive when the police are (were) here
J. will arrive when the police are here.

As the above examples demonstrate, temporal notions such as future, past and present (relation 2) have to be the
same in matrix and embedded clauses. This leads us to conclude that unlike other kinds of embedded sentences,
temporal ones lack a reference time and the event time of the embedded clause is indexed to the reference time of the

40

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

matrix clause. As previously stated, Neg2 structures are possible in embedded clauses with the exception of embedded
temporal clauses. Given that the particular characteristic of temporal embedded clauses in relation to other kinds of
embedded clauses is the linking of temporal reference, one can say that Neg2 structures are not possible in clauses in
which there is no reference time.
As has been indicated, Neg2 is also incompatible with narrative texts. Thus, if the reference time is established by the
context, the Neg2 structure is not permissible. It means that this structure does not permit an anaphoric reading of time,
because it links itself to the reference time.
Note the following context of coordination:
(33)

Fui almoar ao meio dia e j nao tinha arroz (*nao)


went to-lunch at-the midday and already neg had rice (*neg)
I went to have lunch at midday and there was no rice left

In the above example, j (already) in the coordinate sentence refers to an instant, which is conveyed in the first clause,
ao meio dia (midday). In this case, as well, the Neg2 structure is not acceptable. It seems that this structure may never
refer to a specific point of a time extension. Given that events are considered an instant in a time interval, it is understood
that this structure has scope over something other than events.
The existence of different structures indicating different interpretations of negation does not seem to be specific to BP.
Ramchand (2005) was the first to recognize the possibility of different morphosyntactic markers for negation with scope
over both events and propositions. According to Ramchand, Bengali contains two negative items (na, ni), occurring in
different morphosyntactic contexts and with different implications of aspect. Based on the interpretation and distribution of
these items in certain temporal contexts, she argues that these two elements do not correspond to different forms of the
same functional heads, but rather to two distinct strategies of negation in semantics.
Ramchands main argument rests on the complementary distribution depending on the nature of the negated verb
form: Na is grammatical with verbs in the simple present, progressive, simple past and future tense, but ungrammatical in
the perfective aspect:
(34)

a.

ami am-Ta kha-cch-i na


I-NOM mango-CLASS eat-PROG/PRES-1 NEG
I am not eating the mango
(Ex. (4) Ramchand, 2005)

b.

ami am-Ta khel-am na


I-NOM mango-CLASS eat-PAS-1 NEG
I did not eat the mango
(Ex. (5) Ramchand, 2005)

c.

ami am-Ta kheye-ch-i


eu manga-CLASS comer-PERF-PRES-1
I have eaten the mango
(Ex. (6) Ramchand, 2005)

d.

*ami am-Ta kheye-ch-i na


I mango-CLASS eat-PERF-PRES-1 NEG
I have not eaten the mango
(Ex. (7) Ramchand, 2005)

e.

ami am-Ta kha-i ni


I mango-CLASS eat-1 NEG
I did not eat the mango (have not eaten?)
(Ex. (8) Ramchand, 2005)

The ni, conversely, is grammatical in the past tense and perfective aspect. The two negative markers would thus be
complementary. Based on her analysis of the interaction between the perfective and negation in Bengali, Ramchand
argues that negation may be understood as a connector of the time variable or the event variable, and that Bengali
contains both kinds of negation with differences in discourse and morphological implications.
According to Ramchand, the effects of the two types of negation in Bengali would be frequently equivalent, and the
difference is discursive in nature. While na is a simple negation of the event, with the time variable regularly linked via

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

41

context to a specific time in the past,12 ni, which is a quantifier that is directly linked to a time variable, denies that the event
has happened at any point (in the discursive context).
As she points out, when the use of the two markers is equivalent, native speakers tend to identify the ni structure as
more emphatic, the same interpretation given by Brazilian native speakers with respect to Neg2. Furthermore, there are
contexts in which one form is clearly preferable to another. According to Ramchand, in narrative discourse, in which an
event in the past is related to another in a chronological sequence, the form ni is considered infelicitous. Also, if the time of
a sentence is necessarily related to the time of an attached coordinate clause, the ni is excluded by a felicitous condition.
Thus, she argues that the negative marker ni links a time variable, while na links an event variable. The argument is that, in
the case of a narrative, the time variable is emphatically linked to the context in which each sentence moves forward in
discursive time; thus, the form na is superior, as it allows the time variable freedom to be maneuvered over the course of
the discourse. Meanwhile, ni is inferior, as it links the time variable directly, making it unavailable for discursive anaphora.
This observation serves as an additional argument for interpreting Neg2 structures in BP as negating a proposition, given
that, just like the ni in Bengali, this structure does not occur in narrative contexts.
It is also worth mentioning that although Neg1 and Neg2 may occur in the same context, the interpretations of these
structures are not equivalent. Neg1 is interpreted as the negation of an event, while Neg2 is essentially propositional. As the
evaluation of a proposition as either true or false demonstrates the commitment of the speaker with respect to a state of
affairs, the emphatic interpretation attributed to this structure may be derived from the commitment of the speaker to the
assertion.
3.2. Neg3 as metalinguistic negation
In Teixeira de Sousa (2011, 2012), I have proposed that the Neg3 structures correspond to a metalinguistic negation. To
demonstrate this, I considered the approach to metalinguistic negation proposed by Horn ([1989]2001). According to Horn,
metalinguistic negation has the function of negating the assertability of a proposition conveyed in the context of a statement.
He refers to three tests that can distinguish it from descriptive negation: (i) metalinguistic negation is legitimized by the
discursive context contradicting a previous assertion; (ii) metalinguistic negation does not legitimize negative polarity items
(NPIs) and (iii) metalinguistic negation is compatible with positive polarity items (PPIs). Based on these tests, I will attempt, in
the following lines, to show that the nao
present in Neg3 structures has all the characteristics of metalinguistic negation.
With respect to the first test in Teixeira de Sousa (2011), examples (35) and (36) below clearly demonstrate the
contradiction of a preceding discourse, as they express the refusal of the speaker to consider a piece of information
expressed by the interlocutor valid.
(35)

A:

B:

(36)

A:

B:

T chovendo o dia todo!


is raining the day whole
Its been raining the whole day!
T chovendo agora nao!
Is raining now neg
Now its not raining!
Voc cortou o cabelo, nao cortou?
you cut-2PS the hair, neg cut
You had your hair cut, didnt you?
Cortei nao3.
cut-1PS neg
No, I didnt.

The impossibility of Neg3 in wide focus sentences, those that consist entirely of new information, demonstrates the
discursive restriction of this item based on preceding context:
(37)

A:

B:

12

O que aconteceu?
the-what happened
What happened?
#t achando minha carteira nao3.
am finding my wallet neg
I cant find my wallet.

Here, it is important to keep in mind that ni occurs only in the past tense, which is defined by the author as [+past], [+telic] and [+negative].

42

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

With respect to the second test, Biberauer and Cyrino (2009a,b) have already pointed out the incompatibility of Neg3
with NPIs, as the following examples demonstrate:
(38)

a.

A:

B:

O Joao rico!
the Joao is rich
J. is rich!
*O que?! Ele tem um tostao furado nao
what. he has a cent with-a-whole
What?! He doesnt have a red cent!
(Ex. (16) Biberauer & Cyrino, 2009)

b.

A:

B:

vai na festa comigo hoje, n?


you go-FUT-2PS to-the party with-me today
youre coming You going to the party with me today, arent you?
*vou na festa nem morta nao!
go-FUT-1PS to-the party even dead neg
By no means will I go this party!

Furthermore, the above examples illustrate that, as is characteristic of metalinguistic negation, the nao is external to
the clause, given that, with a negative value, it should be able to license negative polarity items. This fact suggests two
possible alternatives: either the item has no scope over the negative polarity item, or this element is not a negative marker,
and is thus not able to license a polarity item.
The pattern also applies to Neg3 within strong PPIs:
(39)

A:

Voc fala pra burro!


you talk-2PS to-the donkey
You talk like hell!
B: #Eu nao
falo pra burro.
I neg talk to the donkey
B0 :
Falo pra burro nao.
talk-1PS to the donkey neg

Contrary to what one might expect, clause-final nao does not have scope over the proposition as it is an external
negation. Observe in the following example that the element denied by nao3 is not the propositional content, but rather an
expression of scalar value:
(40)

A:

B:

Isso vale a pena.


it worth-3PS the penalty
Its worth it
Vale a pena nao3. Vale a galinha inteira!
worth-3PSthe feather neg. worth-3PS the chicken whole
Its really worth it!

An additional test to identify metalinguistic negation, referenced by Martins (2010), is that, unlike descriptive negation,
metalinguistic negation does not happen in embedded clauses. Nao
3 does not occur in these clauses either:
(41)

A:

B:
B:

O Pedro disse que vendeu o carro.


the Pedro said-3PS that sold-3PS the car
P. said that he sold the car.
O Pedro disse que nao vendeu o carro.
the Pedro said-3PS that neg sold-3PS the car
*O Pedro disse que vendeu o carro nao
3.
the Pedro said-3PS that sold-3PS the car neg

As we have seen so far, the negative item in Neg3 structures may function as a metalinguistic negation (external) but
not as a negation of a proposition, as is possible with the negative items in Neg2.

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43

Metalinguistic negation has been addressed in the literature as a pragmatic matter and, for most authors, negative
structures are ambiguous between semantic and metalinguistic readings. However, as pointed by Martins (2014), there
are important syntactic issues to be considered. Drozd (2001), for instance, claims that sentence-peripherical idiomatic
expressions, such as no, appear to be cross-linguistically available as a way to express metalinguistic negation.
For Martins (2014), there are exclusive markers of metalinguistic negation in natural language; she identifies two types:
sentence-internal or sentence-peripherical markers. Peripherical negative metalinguistic (NM) markers, unlike the
internal ones, are available in isolation and in nominal fragments, have the ability to deny a negative proposition and are
compatible with contrastive/emphatic constituents, idiomatic sentences and VP ellipsis.
Neg3 distribution, as previously illustrated, is quite similar to the peripheral NM markers described by Martins (2014).
Neg3 is also available in nominal fragments, with contrastive constituents, idiomatic sentences and VP ellipsis. This
constitutes an additional argument in favor of its interpretation as metalinguistic negation. However, the possibility of Neg3
as an answer to polar questions is still an open issue.
One way of interpreting the difference between semantic negation and metalinguistic negation is understanding that, in
the latter case, the truth value of a proposition is not reversed. This interpretation is clear when scalar expressions are
analyzed. In (40), for example, the speaker says vale a pena na o, and the meaning given in the subsequent sentence is
that it is worth it (vale a pena). Thus, the sentence is not contradictory because the nao at the end of the sentence does not
deny the truth value of the proposition. In another instance, however, this relationship is not as obvious -- the context of the
polar question. Observe the following example:
(42)

A:

B:

Voc comprou arroz?


you bought-2PS rice
Did you buy rice?
Comprei nao
.
bought not
No, I didnt.

In this case, the interpretation of whether Neg3 interferes in the truth value of the proposition is not so clear. The
difficulty in interpreting this context is due to the fact that it is a polar question, which may or may not contain an implicature.
By considering a possible context for that instance, however, it is perfectly possible to recover some implicature, since
these kinds of questions indicate shared knowledge between the speaker and the interlocutor, and they are not asked
without a legitimate question. For a question like Voc comprou arroz? (Did you buy rice?), it is expected that the
interlocutor knows that he or she should or could have bought the rice. Thus, it is possible to understand that what is being
denied in the sentence is not the truth value, but the implicature contained in the question. Another example of a similar
nature is given below. In this case, as well, a question like A Maria quebrou o p? (Did Maria break her foot?) can only
occur in a context in which there is a Maria who may or may not have hurt her foot. Once again, it can be said that what is
denied is not its truth value, but rather its assertability (ex. (20)). This question, however, requires further investigation.
Once it has been demonstrated that Neg3 in BP may be interpreted as metalinguistic negation, it is necessary to
identify, within a syntactic theory, to which linguistic category it belongs. Once the interpretation of the correction is
considered metalinguistic, the occurrence of the contrastive accent associated with this kind of structure13 appears to be
coherent, considering that metalinguistic negation involves the projection of contrastive or exhaustive projection.
The relationship between metalinguistic negation and contrastive focus may also be observed in an analysis of the
assertive structure proposed by Zubizarreta (1998). Zubizarreta does not use the term metalinguistic negation, but rather
refers to the correction effect of the contrastive focus.
According to Zubizarreta (1998), the context of contrastive focus is given by the preceding context in the discourse
(context statement). Contrastive focus has two effects: one is to deny the value attributed to the variable in the assertion of
the preceding context, indicated by an explicit or implicit tag; the other is to introduce an alternative value for the variable.
Zubizarreta illustrates these effects with the following example:
(43)

John is wearing a RED shirt today (not a blue shirt).


(ex. (14) Zubizarreta, 1998)

To Zubizarreta, the above sentence is composed of two propositions, John is not wearing a blue shirt today and John is
wearing a red shirt today, which leads to a conjunction of two main assertions.

13
According to Horn (2001), a contrastive accent is more or less mandatory because of the fluctuation of the polar sensibility of some of the items
involved.

44

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

(44)

A1: There is an x, such that John is wearing x


A2: It is not the case that x (such that John is wearing x) = a blue shirt & the x (such that John is wearing x)
= the red shirt

With this, Zubizarreta holds that contrastive focus contains a judgment about the truth or correction of the assertion
introduced in the context. Thus, contrastive focus denies certain aspects of the assertion introduced by the context.
The example-sentence used by Zubizarreta corresponds to the data presented by Rajagopalan (1982), having a
negative effect over propositions14 and also presenting the same absence of exhaustivity which, according to Horn
([1989]2001), characterizes metalinguistic negation.
Whether it is due to the need for a preceding assertion, the expression of a correction or a copula with two assertions, it
seems clear that contrastive focus is an effect of the elocutionary act of denial, thus being correct to treat the occurrence of
[VP Neg] as an instance of contrastive focus.
A similar analysis is found in Martins (2014). By taking into account the concept of responding assertion (Farkas and
Bruce, 2010), Martins argues that metalinguistic negation does not bear the [reverse] feature, since it does not reverse the
sentence polarity, and proposes that metalinguistic negation bears the feature [objection], which is classified as a relative
polarity feature being grammatically encoded in the CP domain.
In this and the previous section, I have presented data that demonstrate the relationship between the Neg2 structure
and negative assertion, on the one hand, and Neg3 and metalinguistic negation, on the other. We have seen that Neg2 is
semantic negation which refers to the truth value of a proposition. Meanwhile, Neg3 is pragmatic negation which refers to
assertability. As I have previously claimed, some authors recognize two kinds of external negation (Dahl, 1979;
Rajagopalan, 1982) which can be translated through the embedding of a proposition in the assertions It is not the case
that. . . or It is false that. . . In the first case, it is evidently a judgment of the assertability of a proposition. In the second case,
it seems that what is at stake is the truth value of a proposition. Thus, we can associate Neg3 with It is not the case that. . .
and Neg2 with It is false that. . . However, the two types of negation are treated as external negation and, as I have referred
to Neg3 as external negation in opposition to Neg2, it bears distinguishing what is commonly called external negation and
what I consider external negation.
The studies that reference external negation versus internal negation are often based on philosophical studies that
distinguish between predicate negation and proposition negation. Although there is some disagreement in the field, in
these studies, internal negation is characterized by the application of a predicate to something: A is not B. Thus, it is
possible to say that internal negation, under this perspective, refers to the negation of a state of affairs. Meanwhile,
external negation is propositional negation; propositions are assessed as either true or false---essential in the construction
of arguments, which is what really interests philosophers. If we translate internal and external negation in these terms,
Neg1 would correspond to internal negation, while Neg2 would correspond to external negation. In our study, however, I
distinguish between semantic negation as internal negation, and pragmatic negation as external negation. Thus, we
would have, in fact, two internal negations and one external. It is possible, however, to draw a relationship between the
aforementioned types of negation and the types of negation found in BP.
Once I have argued that Neg1 is related to the negation of events or situations, we can then relate it to descriptive
negation, that which denies a situation or state of affairs. This negation would, thus, hold scope over the nuclear scope of
the sentence (vP). Neg2, on the other hand, as I have argued, is a negation of a proposition, linked to the truth value of the
sentence and, therefore, to a reference time. That is, it would be related to the inflectional part of the sentence (IP), but still
internal. Neg3, unlike the other two, would be related to the discursive part of the sentence (CP), defined, for this reason,
as external negation. This is, however, just an observation about the relationship between the three types of negation and
tense, which must be taken into account in order to propose a derivation for these three types of negation in BP.
4. Final remarks
In this paper, I demonstrated that Brazilian Portuguese exhibits three structures which correspond to different
interpretations of negation: over events, propositional or assertability. This analysis takes into account that Neg2 and
Neg3 forms have strong syntactic restrictions.

14

A: The Sky is overcast.


B: It is NOT true (that the sky is overcast).
C: It IS true (that the sky is overcast)

According to Rajagopalan (1982), in the above examples, the response in A counts as an act of denial (the denial of a negation). In both cases,
however, it is true. . . has a metalinguistic function.

L. Teixeira de Sousa / Lingua 159 (2015) 27--46

45

I have noted that, in addition to the differences between the standard and nonstandard forms, there are syntactic and
semantic/pragmatic distinctions between Neg2 and Neg3. Therefore, I have considered them to be separate phenomena:
Neg3, as I have observed, is impossible in all kinds of embedded clauses 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 temporal
clauses or narrative contexts, and is unrestricted as to the 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.
Acknowledgements
I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this paper in different and important ways, namely, the three anonymous
reviewers for Lingua, Sonia Cyrino, Esmeralda Negrao, Mary Kato, Charlotte Galves, and the audience in the Negation
and polarity: interfaces and cognition Workshop (Geneva, July 2013).
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