A Minimalist Analysis of Negative Concord in Northern Peninsular Spanish
thesisposted on 01.11.2017 by Daniel Vergara
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This dissertation proposes new solutions to three current and longstanding problems on the phenomenon of Negative Concord in Spanish: (i) the status of Spanish n-words; (ii) the behavior of Spanish n-words in preverbal position; and (iii) the phenomenon of long distance licensing of n-words in embedded clauses. In to shed light on these problems, I conduct three different experiments employing original quantitative data from negative sentences in Basque, Spanish and English, as well as in Basque/Spanish code-switching to the study of the phenomenon of Negative Concord in Northern Peninsular Spanish. The first experiment sheds light on the status of Spanish n-words by comparing their behavior to English Negative Quantifiers and Negative Polarity Items as well as Basque Negative Polarity Items, where I conclude that Spanish n-words are better characterized as indefinites that are negation dependent, i.e., prototypical NPIs. The second experiment examines the behavior of Spanish n-words in preverbal position using data from Basque/Spanish code-switching. The results reveal that Spanish n-words in preverbal position receive their negativity through agreement with a covert negative feature, which surfaces overtly in code-switching. Based on these results, I put forward a proposal to account for the apparent negativity of n-words in preverbal position adopting a Distributed Morphology framework. The last experiment provides empirical evidence that the phenomenon of Negative Concord in Spanish is a syntactic phenomenon and as such subject to locality conditions. This conclusion is reached by examining the acceptability as well as interpretation of different clauses containing cases of matrix negation followed by an embedded n-word in both, the indicative and subjunctive mood. The findings from these three experiments feed a Minimalist syntactic analysis of Negative Concord in Northern Peninsular Spanish, which explains how the differences in the semantic interpretation as well as the acceptability/unacceptability of different embedded clauses containing negative elements can be accounted for in terms of structural differences and restrictions imposed by syntactic locality.