Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences | Department of Asian and African Studies | Regional Departments | African Studies | Events | Upcoming Events | 17.01. Colloquium on African linguistics: (Expletive) negation in clause combining (Olguín Martínez)

17.01. Colloquium on African linguistics: (Expletive) negation in clause combining (Olguín Martínez)

“(Expletive) negation in clause combining: African languages and beyond” - Talk by Jesús Olguín Martínez (HU Berlin) given within the colloquium of African linguistics and languages
  • When Jan 17, 2023 from 04:15 to 05:45
  • Where Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, room 410 & via Zoom
  • Contact Name Christfried Naumann (christfried.naumann (AT), please contact for Zoom access information)
  • iCal

Crosslinguistically, there are a number of adverbial clause types that are semantically negative, such as ‘instead of V-ing’ clauses or substitutive clauses. The sentence ‘instead of eating vegetables, he ate junk food’ could be paraphrased as: lit. ‘he ate junk food and did not eat vegetables (as originally planned).’ Negative concomitance clauses or ‘without V-ing’ clauses are also semantically negative. The sentence ‘the woman kept talking without getting tired’ could be paraphrased as: lit. ‘the woman kept talking, she was not tired.’ ‘Before’ clauses also interact with negation in interesting ways. This stems from the fact that, as explained by Thompson et al. (2007: 248), the situation of the dependent clause is always incomplete with respect to the main clause situation. The sentence ‘before he left, I ate my vegetables’ is roughly the same as: lit. ‘I ate my vegetables and he had not left yet.’ In this talk, I will explore ‘instead of V-ing’, ‘without V-ing’, and ‘before’ clauses in a sample of 13 African languages. These adverbial clauses tend to be marked with conjunctions (1) and converbs (2).

Konso (Afro-Asiatic/Cushitic)
(1) an    sookad-u          kapaá,  oha      in     an-a.
     NEG  CONJ    fodder  1SG  go-IPFV
‘Instead of going to the farm (as I originally planned it), I will cut the grass.’ (Mous and Oda Orkaydo 2009: 353)

Sidaama (Afro-Asiatic/Highland East Cushitic)
(2) kees̆-i-tto-kki-nni                     amo.
     stay.long-PFV-2SG.M-NEG-CVB    come.IMP.2SG
‘Come without staying long.’ (Kawachi 2007: 382)

Interestingly, even when languages employ a clause-linking device for expressing ‘instead of V-ing’, ‘without V-ing’, and ‘before’, standard negative markers may appear in the dependent clause, as is shown in the Konso and Sidaama examples in (1) and (2) respectively. This type of negative marker is known as expletive. Expletive negation is characterized by the fact that “a negative item, which lexically contributes to negation, does not modify the truth value of the proposition in which it occurs” (Espinal 1992: 49). Put another way, expletive negation is a negative marker that has no negative meaning. Contrary to this, I will argue that negative markers in these complex sentence constructions are not expletive. Instead, they show negative import as an effect of compositional interpretation. In this scenario the clause-linking device and the standard negative marker jointly determine the adverbial relation From a Construction-Grammar perspective (Croft 2001), the clause-linking device and the standard negative marker are ‘Gestalt Features’ that work in concert in the expression of ‘instead of V-ing’, ‘without V-ing’, and ‘before’.


Croft, William. 2001. Radical construction grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Espinal, Maria Teresa. 1992. Expletive negation and logical absorption. The Linguistic Review 9. 333–358.

Kawachi, Kazuhiro. 2007. A grammar of Sidaama (Sidamo): A Cushitic language of Ethiopia. Buffalo: University of New York at Buffalo dissertation.

Mous, Maarten & Ongaye Oda Orkaydo. 2009. In R.M.W. Dixon & Alexandra Aikhenvald (eds.), The semantics of clause linking in Konso, 336–355. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, Sandra, Robert Longacre & Shin Hwang. 2007. Adverbial clauses. In Timothy Shopen, (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, vol. 2: Complex constructions, 2nd edn, 237–300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.