Use of indefinite negative pronouns

Indefinite negative pronouns (no one, nothing, nowhere, etc.) can appear in unique negative structures. One class of languages requires that they be accompanied by a negative predicate (double negation or negative concord), another does not allow them to appear with negative predicates, and a third allows a mixture of these two types. A fourth class uses existential structures instead of negative pronouns; for example, there is no such person who is coming to mean no one is coming. Finally, a fifth class exists in which a non-negative pronoun (or phrase with the same purpose) is considered functionally negative (Fnct), simply because it appears alongside a negative predicate. This parameter considers all generic pronouns that appear in semantically negative sentences to be negative pronouns, regardless of whether negation is expressed on the pronoun itself or on the predicate it accompanies.

In some cases it may be difficult to determine whether negation modifies the pronoun or the predicate. A useful strategy is to examine whether the negative morpheme in the sentence in question can be used in other sentences that do not contain pronouns. If so, the predicate is considered the target of negation, even in sentences in which the pronoun more closely approximates a negative morpheme than it does an independent word.


DbleNeg: Negation is expressed through the use of both a negative pronoun and a negative predicate.

SmplNeg: Only affirmative predicates can be used with negative pronouns. Negation is therefore expressed only on the pronoun.

MixNeg: Negative predicates are used with negative pronouns in certain cases and not allowed in other cases.[1]

ExtlNeg: Negative pronouns do not exist, and existential clauses are used instead. Their structure resembles the following: ‘there is no one / nothing who/that...’ or ‘there is no person/thing who/that...’.

FnctNeg: Negative pronouns do not exist. Instead, indefinite non-negative pronouns[2], or their substitutes[3], express negation by virtue of appearing alongside the negative predicate.


[1] The specific behavior of this mixed type should be described in the commentary. The most common subtypes of this group are the following: a) negation of the predicate depends on whether the pronoun precedes or follows the verb; b) negative pronouns fall into two groups, each behaving according to different rules; c) a two-part negative structure exists, only one part of which is barred by the negative pronoun; d) negation of the predicate alongside negative pronouns is always optional.

[2] Examples may include the following: someone, something, somewhere.

[3] Examples may include the following: a person, a place, a thing.