A Privative Derivational Source for Standard Negation in Lokono (Arawakan)


It has recently been argued that Arawakan languages of South America provide evidence for a novel historical source for standard negation, a privative derivational affix. This hypothesis posits that the prefixal standard negation found in some languages of the family developed from a privative prefix, ma-, present in Proto-Arawakan, that originally derived privative stative verbs from nouns. According to this account, the function of this prefix extended, in many languages of the family, to negating nominalized verbs in subordinate clauses, and then, via insubordination, to standard main clause negation, in a smaller subset of languages. The purpose of this paper is to substantiate this hypothetical trajectory in detail in a particular Arawakan language: Lokono, a highly endangered language of the Guianas. On the basis of modern linguistic fieldwork and colonial-era language materials, we show that 18th- century Lokono exhibited a standard negation construction based on the privative, and that this construction exhibits clear signs of its subordinate clause origin. We show that Lokono also exhibits the full range of functions for the privative ma- that are predicted to be historical precursors to the standard negation function, substantiating the historical trajectory from privative derivation to standard negation. We conclude by observing that the prefixal standard negation strategy has lost ground since the 18th century to a standard negation particle that originally expressed constituent negation, possibly due to contact with colonial languages that employ similar strategies.

Konrad Rybka
Lev Michael
Publication date: 
March 2, 2020
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Rybka, K., & Michael, L. (2019). A privative derivational source for standard negation in Lokono (Arawakan). Journal of Historical Linguistics, 9(3), 340-377.