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CSLI Publications

Negation in Modern Standard Arabic: An LFG Approach

Ahmad Alsharif and Louisa Sadler


Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) uses five different particles to express sentential negation: the invariant particle maa, laa and its tensed counterparts lam (PAST) and lan (FUT), and laysa which is marked only for SUBJ agreement. Partial analyses of these elements are offered in other frameworks, notably Minimalism (Shlonsky, 1997; Benmamoun, 2000), but have not to date received an analysis within LFG. We propose an approach to four of these particles: the fifth one, namely maa, raises a number of additional issues and we leave it to one side for reasons of space. laa, lam, lan show distinctions of TENSE, occur only with imperfective forms of the verb (excluding the perfective) and must immediately precede the verb itself. They are limited to occurrence in verbal sentences. We propose that the adjacency requirement follows from the fact that these negative particles are non-projecting words adjoined to the (imperfective) V. On the other hand, laysa is a fully verbal element, and is thus a negative verb, occurring only with present tense interpretation.

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