On the syntactically complex status of negative indefinites

  • Hedde Zeijlstra
Open Access
Original Paper


Negative Indefinites (NIs) in languages such as Dutch and German may give rise to split-scope readings. Sentences like German Du must keine Krawatte anziehen (‘you must wear no tie’) have a reading where the modal takes scope in between the negation and the indefinite. In this paper I argue that West Germanic NIs are not negative quantifiers (in the Montegovian sense), but complex syntactic structures that consist of an abstract negative operator and an indefinite that are spelled out as a single word. Split-scope effects result from application of the copy theory of movement. I argue that in split-scope constructions, though they are spelled out as a single word, after Quantifier Raising the negative operator is interpreted in a higher copy and the indefinite in a lower copy of the NI. Furthermore I demonstrate that alternative analyses that take NIs in Dutch and German to be negative quantifiers, n-words, or the result of amalgamation or incorporation processes face problems that the analysis presented in this paper does not encounter.


Negation Indefinites Split-scope Negative quantifiers Negative concord 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Amsterdam Center for Language and CommunicationUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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