An expletive negation unlike any other in Québec French

Exploring a ‘complex NPI’ analysis


  • Aurore Gonzalez University of Milano-Bicocca
  • Justin Royer McGill University


This paper explores ‘expletive’ uses of the negative marker pas in Québec French (QF) (Kemp 1982, Larriv´ee 1996), which despite checking every diagnostic for expletive negation (ExN), do not pattern with previously documented cases of ExN. We show that most previous accounts of ExN can thus not explain ExN pas’s distribution. Building on van der Wouden’s (1994) approach to ExN as negative polarity items (NPIs), and adopting an alternative-based account of NPIs (Krifka 1995, Lahiri 1998, Chierchia 2013, a.o.), we
propose a preliminary analysis of ExN pas as part of a ‘complex’ NPI. That is, ExN pas
realizes one of two pieces in the composition of an NPI: (i) it does not contribute existential quantification of its own, but (ii) requires that the predicative existential expression it co-occurs with activate a set of domain alternatives. Though this analysis stands out in making a number of correct predictions about the distribution of ExN pas, it faces an empirical challenge, which we ultimately leave as an issue for future work.


expletive negation, negative polarity, Québec French


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