More ado about nothing: on the typology of negative indefinites

by Johan van der Auwera and Lauren Van Alsenoy

Read the paper here. Below is the abstract:

This study focuses on the frequency and the typology of negative indefinites of what is here called ‘negative quantification’, i.e., the use of the word like nothing in sentences that contain no clausal negator, such as I saw nothing. The frequency claim is based on a variety sample of 179 languages. The typology is also based on this sample but no less on the research literature and on consulting experts. For this typology a parallel is drawn with the study of negative concord, i.e., the use of nothing in sentences that do contain a clausal negator, such as You ain’t seen nothing yet. It is claimed that one needs to draw a distinction between strict and non-strict negative quantification, just like is commonly done for negative concord. Like for negative concord the most important parameter is the position of the indefinite vis-à-vis the finite verb. The types of non-strict negative quantification and non-strict negative concord are shown to be very similar. A final claim is that negative quantification is first and foremost a property of constructions rather than languages.


Grammaticalisation of verbs

Bill McGregor has a new book chapter on the grammaticalisation of verbs as temporal and modal markers in Australian languages.

Diachronic and Typological Perspectives on Verbs

Edited by Folke Josephson and Ingmar Söhrman
This volume applies a diachronic perspective to the verb and mainly deals with typological change affecting tense, aspect, mood and modality in a variety of Indo-European languages (Latin, Romance, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Hittite, and Semitic) and the non-Indo-European Turkic, Amerindian and some Australian languages. The analyses of the structural changes and the interchange between the different grammatical categories that cause them which are presented in the chapters of this volume yield astonishing results. The diachronic perspective combined with a comparative approach provides profound knowledge of the typology of the verb and other typological issues and will serve researchers, as well as advanced and beginning of linguistics students in a way that has rarely been encountered before.

Linguistics of Eating and Drinking

The Grammar of Eating and Drinking Verbs. Åshild Næss

DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-818X.2011.00279.x

Verbs referring to acts of eating and drinking show a crosslinguistic tendency to behave in ways which distinguish them from other verbs in a language. Specifically, they tend to pattern like intransitive verbs in certain respects, even though they appear to conform to the definition of ‘prototypical transitive verbs’. The explanations which have been suggested for this behaviour fall into two main categories: those referring to telicity or Aktionsart, and those referring to the fact that such verbs describe acts which have ‘affected agents’, i.e. they have an effect on their agent as well as on their patient participant. The latter observation has further led to reexaminations of the notion of transitivity in general.