Parametric variation in subordinate evaluative negation: Korean/Japanese versus others

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The main claim of this paper is that a general theory of what has been called "expletive" negation in subordinate clauses should allow for the possibility of it occurring without being licensed by negative predicates, and more crucially that, contrary to the traditional term "expletive", this type of negation is not semantically void. Thus I propose to term this type of negation Evaluative Negation (EN). I show that EN in Korean and Japanese instantiates this option. The newfound positive context for EN is extremely surprising since it challenges the widely accepted previous assumption regarding negative licensers for subordinate EN, hence the negativity-related analyses. Instead, subordinate EN will be analyzed as a subspecies of subjunctive mood marker which creates an additional attitudinal meaning on a separate layer of doxastic states. This gives the correct interpretation of EN structures by assuming that the semantic effects are parameterized into two types of subjunctive-like properties, unlikelihood and undesirability. Hence the new term evaluative negation intends to indicate the main characteristics of EN-by means of which an epistemic or buletic subject expresses an evaluative attitude toward the proposition in terms of likelihood or desirability. The effects are achieved by application of the semantics of an evaluative component as EN is the vehicle of an ordering relation. This proposal has two important consequences: First, the analysis accounts for the cross-linguistic variation in subordinate EN between Japanese/Korean and other languages. Second, it opens the possibility of systematically characterizing EN in other environments such as exclamatives, questions, certain temporal conjunctions, and comparatives, hence capturing cross-contextual variation, as proposed in Yoon ('Not' in the mood: the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of evaluative negation. Ph. D. diss., University of Chicago, 2011a).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-166
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of East Asian Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Expletive/evaluative negation
  • Multiple layers of doxastic states
  • Nonveridicality
  • Polarity
  • Subjunctive mood
  • Variation


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