Matteo Greco

Is expletive negation a unitary phenomenon?

Are you already subscribed?
Login to check whether this content is already included on your personal or institutional subscription.


Expletive negation (EN) is commonly considered to be a unitary phenomenon cross-linguistically codified. In this article I provide empirical arguments to show that in fact EN consists of distinct subtypes and propose a twofold partition between weak and strong EN. More specifically, by investigating Italian, I show that weak EN structures maintain some features typically associated to standard negation (for example, they allow weak-NPIs and n-words) whereas strong EN structures do not, forming a natural class within. Moreover, I highlight a previous unnoticed case of Italian EN clauses I dubbed “Surprise Negation (SNEG) Sentencesµ. SNEGs are distinct from any other EN type sentences for their semantic, syntactic and pragmatic features. I will provide tests based on Ethical Dative, Expletive e, discourserelated constructions (like focus and topic phenomena) and mirativity value; moreover, I characterize them on the basis of intonational features showing that they blend interrogative and exclamative acoustic features.


  • Expletive Negation
  • Standard Negation
  • Negative Polarity Items
  • N-Words
  • Negative Coordination


Article first page

What do you think about the recent suggestion?

Trova nel catalogo di Worldcat