The Afro-Colombian creole language Palenquero is characterized by predominantly clause-final negation, a typologically rare configuration. Contemporary Palenquero speakers—all of whom also speak Spanish—occasionally exhibit Spanish-like pre-verbal negation, raising the question of whether pre-verbal negation has always been a pragmatically available alternative or is a more recent accretion. The present study offers an indirect probe into the development of Palenquero by examining the relative processing efficiency of (Spanish) immediately pre-verbal NEG vs. (Palenquero) unbounded clause-final NEG. The results of a series of experiments conducted with Palenquero-Spanish bilinguals suggest that pre-verbal negation is quite efficiently processed, while processing of clause-final negation is degraded under increased cognitive demands. Contextual and pragmatic cues ameliorate the processing of clause-final negation in likely negative utterances, while in ambiguous utterances clause-final negation is more vulnerable. These results, while not excluding the possibility that Palenquero has always allowed for pre-verbal negation, provide an alternative scenario, in which contact with Spanish facilitated the development of multiple configurations of negation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Language and Linguistics
- Linguistics and Language