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The Language Hoax

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Language and Development in Africa

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Academic Paper


Title: Reconsidering the syntax of non-canonical negative inversion
Author: Jessica White-Sustaita
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Two main hypotheses have been proposed to account for the word order of negative inversion (NI) in varieties of non-canonical English (e.g. Don't nobody else care). An auxiliary inversion analysis argues that the word order is derived via movement of the auxiliary to the left periphery, whereas an existential analysis argues that the word order is an artifact of deletion of the expletive subject, paralleling there-insertion existential constructions. After reviewing these hypotheses, I provide empirical evidence that neither of these theories adequately explains the peculiarities of NI. I advance a third hypothesis, namely that NI is the result of negative movement to the specifier of NegP, and that this movement is pragmatically motivated by an existential meaning in NI constructions. Syntactically, NI is made possible through the Neg-Criterion (Haegeman & Zanuttini 1991, 1996). This analysis explains problems encountered by prior analyses, and offers a unified analysis for variation in NI across dialects. Finally, I explain cross-dialectal differences in NI by considering the relationship between subject requirements and agreement.

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This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 14, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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