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On Verbal Negation in Semitic

Pages 17 - 45


While there have been many studies of negative expressions and negation in a number of Semitic languages, negation is not normally used in comparative Semitic linguistic and is avoided in discussions about subgrouping. This study reviews the negation of verbal predicates in an attempt to reconstruct the original Semitic set of negation particles. It concludes that verbal negation in Semitic was originally a set containing two particles with distinct functions: *ʾl was used to negate indicative verbal forms, while * was used to negate non-indicative ones. Many languages generalized the indicative negation particle to negate all verbal forms, a move which subsequently led to the loss of the original syntactic distinction. The reconstruction of the innovations in Semitic corroborates the subgrouping of Semitic suggested by Hetzron (1976) and modified by Porkhomovsky (1997) and Huehnergard (1991; 2005), and in fact validates the modification of Hetzron's proposal.


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