LLF – Bât. ODG – 5e étage – Salle du conseil (533)
Yanwei Jin et Jean-Pierre Koenig
Change by interference
It is common to assume that language change— to the extent it is natural and not due to the vagaries of history or contact—is rational in that it improves either efficiency or communication. In this talk, we discuss a case of semantic interference, expletive negation (see the Catalan example in (1)), that leads to ambiguity (and, thus, does not improve communication), but (i) is part of speakers' knowledge of their language and (ii) is natural in that it follows from general properties of language production and basic semantic relations. We first discuss the results of Jin and Koenig (2019, 2020, 2021a) that show that expletive negation occurs widely across languages of the world and in the same semantic contexts. We then argue on the basis of 4 comprehension experiments, 3 semantic judgement experiments, and 2 corpus studies that each trigger (tenir por in (1)) is lexically associated with a likelihood of an expletive negation occurring in its complement clause. We argue that the lexicalization of expletive negation is due to a combination of (i) lexical entailments (fear something entails wanting it not to occur) and (ii) general properties of language production, following insights from Dell (1986).
(1) Tinc por que no arribin.
have.1sg.prs fear that neg arrive.3pl.sbjv
‘I am afraid that they will arrive.’ (Espinal 1992: 336)