Vol. 3 No. 2 (2016): Approaching Diversity in Speech Studies: New Methodologies under Empirical Perspectives
Spoken Syntax

The pragmatics of verbal negation in Brazilian Portuguese. Hypothesis testing with corpus data

Luis Filipe Lima Silva
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
Heliana Mello
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
Published September 21, 2016


Verbal negation, Brazilian Portuguese, spontaneous speech corpus, Pragmatics


This paper focuses on testing a pragmatic hypothesis about verbal negation in Brazilian Portuguese (BP). The BP verbal negation system presents three forms, namely: preverbal, double, and postverbal negation. Schwenter (2005) claims that there are constraints in the use of the non-canonical forms, i.e. double and postverbal negations. According to the author, double negation can negate only inferable or directly activated propositions and postverbal negation can negate only directly activated propositions. We tested this hypothesis with data from the C-ORAL-BRASIL reference spontaneous speech corpus of BP (Raso & Mello 2012). The results show that there is a tendency for Schwenter’s hypothesis about double negation to be confirmed, but this is not the case for postverbal negation. The corpus data examined reveal a high proportion of occurrences that do not comply with the proposed hypothesis. Further research is needed to advance the understanding of constraints about the use of the non-canonical forms of negation in BP.