Double negation in Catalan and Spanish. Interaction between syntax and prosody

M. Teresa Espinal*, Susagna Tubau, Joan Borràs-Comes, Pilar Prieto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in BookChapterResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This study focuses on the interaction between prosody and syntax in the interpretation of single negation and Double Negation in two Negative Concord languages, namely Catalan and Spanish. By means of two perception experiments, we investigate the role of two major formal conditions in the interpretation of Double Negation in Catalan and Spanish answers to negative wh-questions: (a) their intonation; and (b) their syntactic structure, which contain n-words such as Catalan ningú ‘nobody’ or Spanish nada ‘nothing’. The results reveal that (i) syntax and prosody interact: prosodic contours enhance processing of syntactic structures; (ii) isolated and preverbal n-words may convey DN interpretations when associated with a special intonation; and (iii) Catalan and Spanish hearers show form-meaning preferences between syntactic forms and prosodic contours: interestingly, hearers do not reject marked forms that should be discarded by a theory of grammar that only takes into account syntactic constituents and their merging possibilities according to their formal features, but they interpret them in the only way they can be interpreted, as a presupposition denial.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNegation and polarity: experimental perspectives
Editors Larrivée, P., Lee, C. (eds.)
Place of PublicationBerlín (DE)
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-17463-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Publication series

NameLanguage, Cognition, and Mind
ISSN (Print)2364-4109
ISSN (Electronic)2364-4117


  • Catalan
  • Double negation
  • n-words
  • Negative concord languages
  • Prosody
  • Spanish
  • Syntax


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