Negation is always signalled by an overt morpheme, and in this chapter, we consider three different types of such morphemes: affixes (cf. 1), particles (cf. 2), and auxiliary verbs (cf. 3). Languages which mark negation by two morphemes in different positions (cf. 4) are the fourth type that is distinguished here.
Languages can have several different negative morpheme types:
|Negative auxiliary verb||1||10||11|
|Bipartite negative marker||4||2||6|
In addition to segmentable negative markers, some languages also have some verbs with suppletive negation marking, e.g. kaa ‘cannot’ in Norf'k (Mühlhäusler 2013), which is in a suppletive relation to ell ‘can’ (< able). Such cases are not taken into account in this chapter.
For the six languages with a bipartite negative marker, see the next chapter on the position of standard negation.
We also regard the Chinese Pidgin Russian form ne (e.g. ne magu ‘I cannot’), the Zamboanga Chabacano form no- (e.g. nosábe yo ‘I don’t know’), and the Sri Lanka Portuguese form nuku- (e.g. nuku-sava ‘doesn’t know’) as prefixes. Vincentian Creole (e.g. wod-n ‘wouldn’t’) and Afrikaans (e.g. kan-nie ‘cannot’) are said to have a negative suffix that occurs with some modal verbs. However, these value assignments must be regarded as rather uncertain: Distinguishing between affixes and non-affixed function words is generally very difficult or impossible (Haspelmath 2011b), and the criteria used here are probably not consistent across languages. Many of the negative particles of value 2 are probably equally tightly bound to the verb as the affixes of value 1.
In Sri Lanka Portuguese, there is reason to treat nuku- differently from the other negator naa (e.g. naa vii ‘won’t come’), because naa has a long vowel, unlike all other prefixes. In Zamboanga Chabacano, no- is different from the other negator nuáy, which is followed by the subject rather than directly by the verb:
But these are language-particular criteria that do not generalize to other languages.
The great majority of APiCS languages have at least one negative morpheme that is classified as a negative particle. This particle typically occurs next to the verb (see the next chapter).
It is often unclear whether such a negative morpheme should be regarded as a particle or a verbal affix. One suspects that writing habits influence our view of the grammatical nature of these elements. Particle status is clear when an argument phrase can come between the verb and the negative morpheme, as in (6) from Chabacano, and in the seven languages where the particle follows the object (value 3 of the Chapter 101; but note that even in such a case, the negative morpheme can be written as an affix, as in (4) above).
A negative auxiliary verb is a negative morpheme that has verbal properties such as tense marking or person marking. The best-known example comes from English, where negation is marked by the negative auxiliary don’t/doesn’t and didn’t with most verbs (as well as ain’t in nonstandard varieties).
Interestingly, many English-based pidgins and creoles use a different strategy, the particle no preceding the verb (see (2), (7), and (8) above). However, quite a few English-based languages have negative auxiliaries, retained from English (or perhaps reborrowed from English in decreolization):
These elements might alternatively be considered negative particles, but we treat them as auxiliaries because they show a tense contrast. Thus, Trinidad English Creole has doh (< don’t) as a present-tense counterpart of eh: Leah doh eat de food ‘Leah doesn't eat the food.’ And Kriol has don as a present-tense counterpart of din (cf. (3) above):
In Gullah, auxiliary verb status of ain(t) (seen earlier in 12) is shown by its ability to occur before the subject pronoun in questions:
In a number of Atlantic English-based languages, the preverbal negative morpheme never (or neva, neba, etc.) is classified as a negative auxiliary, because it does not mean ‘never’, but simple negation of a past (or anterior) situation, i.e. it is inherently tense-marked and occurs in an auxiliary slot.
Since we cannot distinguish well between affixes and particles, it is unclear whether it is significant that negative particles are found in almost all APiCS languages and negative affixes are rare in our languages, whereas negative affixes are very common in the world’s languages (Dryer 2005n). However, we observe that short negative morphemes such as English -n’t, French ne, and Portuguese não tend to get lost and be replaced (by no as in (7), ka as in (9), from Portuguese nunca ‘never’). And where the old forms are preserved, they are often found only in a few high-frequency verbs (as with no- in Zamboanga Chabacano no-sábe ‘don’t know’, and -n in Vincentian Creole wod-n ‘wouldn’t’).