The grammatical representation of expletive negation




Expletive negation refers to constructions where a negator in the complement of certain lexical items does not change the polarity of the complement proposition. Jin & Koenig (2021) show that expletive negation occurs rather widely in languages of the world and in very similar environments. They propose a language production model of why such apparently illogical uses of negation arise in language after language. But their study does not address the grammatical status and representation of expletive negation. In this paper, we argue that expletive negation is part of the lexical knowledge speakers have of their language and that the negator in expletive negation constructions contributes a negation to a non-at-issue content associated with expletive negation triggers. We provide a Lexical Resource Semantics analysis of how triggers combine in a non-standard manner with the standard semantic content of their complements: the negation (and in some cases an additional modal operator) of the content of their complement is part of the trigger’s non-at-issue content while the scope of the negation is an argument of the trigger’s MAIN content. Finally, we suggest that the expletive use of the French negator ne includes a lexical constraint that requires it to modify a verb that reverse selects for an expletive negation trigger.


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How to Cite

Jin, Yanwei & Koenig, Jean-Pierre. 2021. The grammatical representation of expletive negation. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar 47–67. (doi:10.21248/hpsg.2021.3) ( (Accessed December 10, 2023.)