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How speakers interpret the negative markers no and no…pas in Catalan

Susagna Tubau , Viviane Déprez , Joan Borràs-Comes and M.Teresa Espinal EMAIL logo
From the journal Probus


This paper reports the results of an experimental investigation designed to test the interpretation of the optional doubling of the negative markers no and pas in Expletive Negation (EN) contexts and in preverbal Negative Concord Items (NCI) contexts in Catalan. We show that in EN contexts a negative interpretation of no is preferred to an expletive one, with non-negative readings being less widespread than expected from what is described in traditional grammars. In NCI contexts the overt presence of no basically contributes to a single negation interpretation, thus confirming the status of Catalan as a Negative Concord language. We also show that, in the absence of discourse environments, pas in both EN and NCI contexts shows a variable interpretation, a characteristic of negative polarity items. Our results indicate that pas does not increase the amount of negative interpretation of no in EN contexts, or of double negation in NCI contexts, but is an item dependent on the interpretation of no. We conclude that the strengthening role of Catalan pas (at stage two of Jespersen’s cycle), while associated with the expression of metalinguistic negation, does not reverse the truth or falsity of a proposition.

Funding statement: This research has been funded by two grants (Spanish FFI2014-52015-P, and Generalitat de Catalunya 2014SGR-1013).


We would like to express our gratitude to the anonymous reviewers of Probus for all their helpful comments and suggestions. The last author also acknowledges an ICREA Academia award.


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Published Online: 2018-4-10
Published in Print: 2018-4-25

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