Negative priorities: evidence from prohibitive and expletive negation


  • Alda Mari
  • Chloé Tahar



In this paper we propose an analysis of prohibitive and expletive negation that relies on two ways of building negative priorities. Our empirical ground is the diachronic development of expletive negation from Latin to French. We show that the negative expression ne (from Indo-European me) is found in two contexts in Latin: imperatives and priority attitudes. We propose a unified semantics for these contexts, that leaves room to accommodate a distinction between positive (e.g. order/wish) and negative (e.g. forbid/fear) priority attitudes. We argue for an ambiguity account of ne driven by these two types of attitudes, and argue for a distinction of a prohibitive ne acting as a true negation in the context of imperatives and positive priority attitudes and an expletive ne, reversing the ordering relation encoded in the lexical semantics of negative priority attitudes. We extended the analysis to expletive negation in the context of epistemic attitudes conveying a meaning of contrariness such as doubt or deny thus establishing a unified semantics for negative attitudes that cuts across priority and epistemic ones.




How to Cite

Mari, A., & Tahar, C. (2020). Negative priorities: evidence from prohibitive and expletive negation. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 24(2), 56–71.