Palenquero vs. Spanish negation: Separate but equal?

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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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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