Guahiboan negation: ascription and existence

AMERINDIA 43: 1-26, 2021

Johan van der AUWERA
Université d’Anvers, Belgique
Université de Leyde, Pays-Bas


Abstract: The Guahiboan languages show interesting variation in the expression of standard, ascriptive, existential and prohibitive negation. We aim to account for some of the variation with reference to the general typology of negation and to family-internal evidence. It focusses on three unusual features and thus enriches the general understanding of negation: (i) Existential negators can join standard negators, adding emphasis and eventually replace the standard negator. This process simultaneously fits both the ‘negative existential cycle’ and the Jespersen cycle and it is cross-linguistically rare. (ii) Both standard and existential negation can be expressed with an ascriptive strategy, a strategy that has not been studied well in the general typology of negation. (iii) Negators can enclose subject markers.