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5.4 The negative article

The article naan / neen no is used as nominal negation. It has the same paradigm as the full indefinite article (the numeral one), except that negation is prefixed with a n-. This is shown in the following table:

Table 1
Full indefinite article aan een -
Negative article naan neen neen

The negative article may also be found with plural NPs, unlike the indefinite article. The negative article can be used to negate idioms which contain a NP featuring the indefinite article in the affirmative. It can also be used with NPs of which the noun has lost its literal meaning. The negative article may be used without a following noun, that is, in ellipsis. The German interference kien ‘no’ may also be heard being used as the negative article.

The negative article is discussed in the sections below.

[+]1. NP negation and sentential negation

Syntactically, naan/neen ‘no’ belongs to the Noun Phrase (NP). Nevertheless, it systematically functions as the equivalent of sentence negation in case there are indefinite NPs in the clause. Consider the examples below:

Jo häbe neen Huus baue houged.
they have no house build needed
They didn’t have to build a house.
Dät hät goar neen Soalt.
that has absolutely no salt
It is absolutely worthless.

In English, sentence negation can itself be used in combination with an indefinite NP. Instead of the indefinite article, English can also combine the free choice item any with sentential negation. Saterland Frisian, like West Frisian, features the negative article in such cases.

[+]2. Agreement of following AP triggered by the negative article

Like the indefinite article, the negative article triggers agreement on a following attributive adjective, see: Agreement of APs with a following Noun and a preceding determiner. Some examples are given below:

Naan oolden Boom.
no.MSC.SG old.MSC.SG tree
No old tree.
Hie hiede neen goude Frisur deerfoar.
he had no.FEM.SG good.FEM.SG hairstyle it.foar
He didn’t have a good hairstyle (for it).
Hie hät neen goud Ansjoon.
he has no.NTR.SG good.NTR.SG repute
He is in bad repute.
Dät wieren wiete Stierne, neen gouldene. .
it were.PL white.PL stars no.PL golden.PL
They were white stars, not golden ones.

The examples make it also clear that the negative article combines with both singular and plural nouns and both with mass nouns and with count nouns. In this respect, it is more than just the negative counterpart of the indefinite article, which does not combine with plural nouns nor with mass nouns. At first sight, it doesn’t seem to make a difference whether the negative article combines with a singular noun or a plural ones. Nevertheless, there are examples in which only the singular is grammatical:

Neen Stiern wier wiet.
no star was white
No star was white.
*Neen Stierne wieren wiet.
no stars were white
No stars were white.

The last sentence sounds odd, but it is grammatical in case an existential construction is used, and the AP is put in the attributive position. This should be further investigated.

[+]3. Idiom formation and voiding of lexical content following the negative article

The negative article may be used in idioms which must contain a negation, that is, they cannot be used in the affirmative. In such idioms, the noun following the negation is usually voided of its lexical content. Consider some examples of idioms with the negative article:

Deer kräit naan Huund of Hone ätter.
it crows no dog or rooster after.
Nobody will (want to) know.
Hie roate neen Tul of Teken fon sik.
he gave no language or sign of REFL
Nothing was heard from him.

In these examples, the noun following negation has lost its meaning. Thus the first sentence above is not a statement about dogs and roosters, nor is the second one about language or signs. In the first example, the negative NP as a whole just means ‘nobody’, and in the second example it just means ‘nothing’. Such voiding of lexical content is signalled by various properties, which need not all be present. In the first place, it is signalled by the syntactic structure: the negative article is combined with a disjunction. Negation applies distributively to all members of the disjunction which it combines with. In the second place, voiding of lexical content is signalled phonologically by the alliteration (or rhyme) of the two members of the disjunction. A variant of the last example above involves both alliteration and rhyme:

Hie roate neen Nul of Tul fon sik.
he gave no zero or language of REFL
Nothing was heard from him.

A third characteristic of voiding is that words may be used, which are restricted to idiomatic expressions, that is, they do not occur on their own, though they may be etymologically related to known words, or by association. Thus the word Tul is not the word that is used for ‘language’. The normal word is a word that is closely related, Toal. Hence we call a word like Tul a near-word, since it is like a normal word, but not quite. We also find a near-word in the following example:

Neen Mouders Käize koom uus juun.
no mother’s molar came us against
Nobody came towards us / Nobody met us.

The normal Saterland Frisian word is: Muur. Here the word Mouder ‘mother’ is used, which is restricted to expressions (mouderselenallänig ‘mother soul alone > quite alone’). But it can be recognised to mean ‘mother’ from its systematic phonological similarity to German Mutter and Low German Moder. This example doesn’t feature a disjunction, but a possessor construction.

Finally, lexical voiding may also be used to represent sentential negation used independently to negate a preceding proposition. An example is given below:

Hät die Wäänt sik sljucht benumen? Neen Stuk!
has the boy REFL bad behaved no piece
Did the boy behave badly.’ ‘Not in the least! / Not at all!

Here the negative article and the following noun together designate the negation of the proposition which can be retrieved from the preceding question.

[+]4. The negative article and Noun ellipsis

The negative article may be used without a following noun, that is, in ellipsis. In ellipsis, the negative article just appears in the form that is used when there is a following NP.

Man kriegen häbe iek silläärge naan.
but received have I never none.MSC.SG
But I never received any.
'n Gouden Boom kon neen sljuchte Fruchte drege un 'n sljuchten Boom neen goude.
a good tree can no bad fruits carry and a bad tree no.PL good
A good tree cannot carry any bad fruits and a bad tree no good ones.
Un daach faalt neen fon him ap ju Äide andeel sunder dän Wille fon jou Foar.
and still falls no.FEM.SG of them on the earth down without the will of your father
And nevertheless none of them falls down on the earth without the will of the Father.
Man wan hie neen findt.
but when he no.FEM.SG finds
But when he finds none.

The form depends on the gender and number of the antecedent, which may occur in the preceding sentence. For example, the antecedent in (16) derives from the plural noun Spräien ‘sparrows’, which occurs in the previous sentence. Nevertheless, the constructed antecedent is the singular form. It seems that in this particular example the gender and meaning is retrieved from the antecedent but not the number. The antecedent in (17) is the feminine noun singular Stede ‘place’, which occurs in the preceding sentence. Finally, the negative article is not used as a floating quantifier.

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