Can NEG placement have negative consequences (for efficient processing)? A bilingual test case

John M. Lipski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The present study examines the relative processing efficiency of two typologically diverse configurations of sentential negation: immediately preverbal NEG and unbounded clause-final NEG. In order to effect a head-to-head comparison, the data are drawn from a bilingual speech community in the Afro-Colombian village of San Basilio de Palenque, in which two lexically cognate languages are in contact, differing principally in the placement of the sentential negator: Spanish (preverbal NEG) and the Afro-Hispanic creole language Palenquero (clause-final NEG). The results of a series of experiments suggest that preverbal negation is quite robust, while processing of clause-final negation is degraded under increased cognitive demands. Contextual and pragmatic cues ameliorate the processing of likely negative utterances, while unbounded clause-final negation is more vulnerable in ambiguous utterances. The contrasting behavior of Spanish and Palenquero negation highlights the possible role of processing mechanisms as contributing to typological differences among languages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1147-1188
Number of pages42
JournalApplied Psycholinguistics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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