Not on the edge The syntax and pragmatics of clause-initial negation in Swedish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The possibility of topicalizing sentential negation is severely restricted in the Germanic V2-languages. In this paper, we show that negative preposing was more frequent and less restricted in earlier stages of Swedish: approx. 8 % of all occurrences of negation are clause initial in Old Swedish, compared to less than 0.5 % in present day Swedish. We propose that this change in frequency can be traced to the syntactic status of the negative element. More specifically, we argue that Old Swedish eigh 'not' may function as a syntactic head and cliticize to the finite verb in [C-0]. This possibility is not open to the XP inte 'not' in Modern Swedish. In Modern Swedish, we argue that the restrictions on negative preposing instead are related to more general pragmatic restrictions on the information expressed in [Spec,CP]: according to our hypothesis, negative preposing is licensed by contrast.


  • Johan Brandtler
  • David Hakansson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • change, Diachronic, Negation, Topicalization, Old Swedish, Modern Swedish, Spec, CP, Germanic languages
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-128
JournalJournal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)