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[edit] Introduction

Negation is the process of turning affirmative statements into the opposite form. For example, the negative equivalent of affirmative sentence, I am eating is I am not eating. In English there are a few processes at work. not must always come with an auxiliary verb like the verb 'to have' and 'to be'. In Mi'gmaq, with its extremely detailed and expansive verb conjugations in the present, it is not surprising that the negated conjugation of verbs is just as detailed and expansive as they are in the affirmative.

To start off any commentary on negation, it seems fitting to start of with the word "no" which is moqwa in Mi'gmaq. (The opposite of this is e'e , meaning "yes".) Negation in Mi'gmaq is similar to that of Obijwe in that there is both an affix that occurs between the verb and the person marker and a word that comes before the verb denoting negation. See Verb Conjugation in Ojibwe. The Mi'gmaq negated affix is w or u which is very closely related to the Proto-Algonquian form for negation which is is *-w ( Proulx, 1990 ). w or u are very closely related phonetically since w is the semivowel corresponding to the vowel u. Bear in mind that during the elicitation sessions, sometimes it was unsure whether to use w or u.

Negation in Mi'gmaq consists of adding mu or ma then the verb conjugated in the negated verb form. After mu or ma the verb must always contain a negative particle. We must think of these two things as inseparable. mu always comes before the negative conjugated verb in the present or past, and ma always comes before future or if the prefix gis ('can', 'to be able to') is attached to the verb. All other prefixes abide by the rules mu before present or past and ma before future. There are other particles that take the negated form of the verb, but it is obvious that these particles express a negated idea.

Please note as well that in some of the studies on Mi'gmaq and Algonquian languages the term 'nonaffirmative' is used to describe the negated form. For consistency in this report, I will use the term 'negated' to indicate the form of the verb which is the opposite of affirmative. 'Nonaffirmative' and 'negated' however refer to the same process of negation.

[edit] Conjugation of the Negated Verb

I have selected the verb mijji (to eat). Please note that some resources spell this like mijji where other spell it miji (Micmac Teaching Grammar, 1976). I have selected the spelling from the Migmaq talking dictionary. It is also important to note that the Micmac Teaching Grammar uses an orthography that is different of all other orthographies used with Mi'gmaq. I will indicate which terms they are and give the Listuguj equivalent orthographical manner of writing them.

The simplified formula for the conjugation in the negated form: the base form + u or w + person ending (Micmac Teaching Grammar, 1976) The base form for intransitive verbs is always the verb in the first person singular. For example I eat is mijji. Now to create the second person singular we add the ending -n denoting second person singular and get the form mijjin. For another type of verb (henceforth referred to as the a verbs) we take the base form amalga- and add -n to get amalgan (you dance) and to get the first person singular we add -i. Please note that it has been hypothesized that there are at least eleven different conjugations. We will only be dealing with a couple here. Because of reasons of time limitation, I was not able to elicit all eleven types but when there is a difference in conjugation, that will be noted. Note that in the plural the u or w comes after -ulti-. This could be due the the fact that -ulti- is the plural affix that attaches to the base form of the verb and does not convey anything about the tense of the verb, rather it is used to denote that the verb is plural. Thus the u or w comes right before the tense marker which is always at the end of the verb. For the first person singular in present there is a null tense marker at the end of some verbs (for example the -i verbs) thus the negative marker is at the end.

[edit] Present Tense

First is a comparison of the affirmative and negated paradigms of the verb mijji ('eat').

mijji- 'eat'
↓person / number→ SG DU PL
1 13 mijji mijjieg mijjultieg
12 mijji'gw mijjulti'gw
2 mijjin mijjioq mijjultioq
3 mijjit mijjijig mijjultijig
mu mijji- 'not eat'
↓person / number→ SG DU PL
1 13 mu mijjiw mu mijjiweg mu mijjultiweg
12 mu mijjigw mu mijjultigw
2 mu mijjiun mu mijjiwoq mu mijjultiwoq
3 mu mijjigw mu mijji'gw mu mijjulti'gw

The word mu signifies negation. When mu is in front of the verb, the verb must also be conjugated in the negative form. In the above table we see the intrusion of the sound u, ew or w. The following table illustrates the endings for the present negative tense, keeping in mind mu must ALWAYS come right before the negated verb. When mu precedes a verb it must ALWAYS be in the negated form.

Below is a table that summarizes the VAI -i stem negative person endings in present conjugation. Inanimate [IN] conjugation was taken from the Micmac Grammar (1976, pg 155).

VAI -i stem negative present person endings
↓person / number→ SG DU PL
1 13 -u - -
12 - -
2 - - -
3.AN - - -
3.IN - - -

The forms for the first person dual and plural in the exclusive and inclusive forms are the same. As shown by other data, the dual form seems to be in the process of disappearing. This is one such example where the dual form does not exist for the plural first person. Some younger speakers do not use the dual form at all so it is not surprising that we find a gap in the dual form here. All this is according to the speaker but if we followed the pattern of the previous forms we would expect the dual form for the inclusive and exclusive first person to be -ieweg. "When the verb is negated, then the -g third person is ALWAYS found" (Micmac Grammar, 1976 pg 93).

Below is a comparison of different verbs to give an idea of how to conjugate different types of verbs in the negated form. All forms are conjugated in the present singular third person animate. The form of -elie- was taken from Micmac Grammar (pg 155). For more detail about these forms see VAI.

VAI stem Base Form Gloss Affirmative Gloss Negated Gloss
-i mijji- eat mijjit s/he eats mu mijjigw s/he does not eat
-a amalga- dance amalgat s/he dances mu amalgagw s/he does not dance
-a'si ala'si- go around ala'sit s/he goes around mu ala'sigw s/he does not go around
-e elie- go eliet s/he goes mu eliegw s/he does not go

For verb conjugations in the affirmative please see Mi'kmaq Verb Conjugation. As you can see, this site uses the verb mijisi meaning 'to eat'. In Listuguj this is not used as the word for to eat because it sounds too close for the verb mejisi 'to excrete'.

[edit] Transitive

Below is the conjugation in present of a transitive verb that takes an inanimate object.

VTI Conjugation Class 1: -m class
↓subject / object→ 0SG 0PL
1 malqutm malqutmann
13 malqutmeg malqutmegl
12 malqutmu'g malqutmu'gul
2 malqutmn malqutmnn
2PL malqutmoq malqutmoqol
3 malqutmeg malqutmegl
3PL malqutmi'tij malqutmi'titl
VTI Negative Conjugation Class 1: -m class
↓subject / object→ 0SG 0PL
1 mu malqutmu mu malqutmuann
13 mu malqutmueg mu malqutmuegl
12 mu malqutmugg mu malqutmuggul
2 mu malqutmu'n mu malqutmu'nn
2PL mu malqutmuoq mu malqutmuoqol
3 mu malqutmug mu malqutmugul
3PL mu malqutmi'tigw mu malqutmi'tigul

VTI Negative Conjugation Class 1: -m class
↓subject / object→ 0SG 0PL
1 - -
13 - -
2 - -
2PL - -
3 - -
3PL - -

[edit] Imperative

Here is the formation of the affirmative imperative:

mijji- "eat"SingularDualPlural
2 Second person mijji mijjigw mijjultigw

Now we compare it to the negated:

mutt mijj- "eat"SingularDualPlural
2 Second person mutt mijjiw mutt mijjinew mutt mijjultinew

[edit] Past Tense

Again for the past we compare the past and the negated past.

mijj- "eat"SingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) mijjiap mijjieg'p mijjultieg'p
12 First person (inclusive) n/a mijji'gup mijjulti'gup
2 Second person mijjit'p mijjioqop mijjultioqop
3 Third person (animate) mijjip mijjipnig mijjultipnig

Now let us look at the negated forms.

mijj- "eat"SingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) mu mijjiwap mu mijjiweg'p mu mijjultiweg'p
12 First person (inclusive) n/a mu mijjiwgup mu mijjultiwgup/mijjultiggup
2 Second person mu mijjiwt'p mu mijjiwoqop mu mijjultiwoqop
3 Third person (animate) mu mijjigup mu mijjigupnig mu mijjultigupnig

Thus this would be the conjugation of the negated form:

Negated PastSingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) - - -
12 First person (inclusive) n/a - -
2 Second person - - -
3 Third person (animate) -

For the third person the -ug'p can change to -weg'p for example:

  1. Mu   ala'ti-we-g'p   
    not  go-NEG-SG.PAST  
    'She didn't go'

[edit] Future Tense


mijj- "eat"SingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) mijjit's/mijjia's(List) mijjitesnen mijjultitesnen
12 First person (inclusive) n/a mijjitesnu mijjultitesnu
2 Second person mijjit'sg mijjitoqs'p mijjultitoqs'p
3 Third person (animate) mijjitew mijjitaq mijjultitaq


mijj- "eat"SingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) ma' mijjiw ma' mijjiweg ma' mijjultiweg
12 First person (inclusive) n/a ma' mijjigw ma' mijjultigw
2 Second person ma' mijjiun ma' mijjiwoq ma' mijjultiwoq
3 Third person (animate) ma' mijjigw ma' mijji'gw ma' mijjulti'gw

NOTE: In the future the mu changes to ma'  !! Like mu, ma must always come before the verb conjugated in the negative future.

Paradigm of the negated endings in the future.

Negated FutureSingularDualPlural
1 First person (exclusive) - - -
12 First person (inclusive) - -
2 Second person -
3 Third person (animate)

As you may have noticed the future tense is easy! The verbs take the same endings as the negated present tense but the mu is replaced with ma thus indicating future.

[edit] When negation is used

When the verb is negated there must always find a negative particle (like mu or ma). If not the sentence is ungrammatical as shown below:

  1. *gis-wissugwatige-w  
    'I cannot cook (intended meaning)'

The only form of the above sentence must be:

  1. ma'  gis-wissugwatige-w  
    NEG  can-cook.1-NEG      
    'I cannot cook at this time'
  1. mu              gis-wissugwatige-w  
    'I am unable to cook (something is preventing me from cooking)'

Thus it is seen that ma' comes before the verb, now making the sentence grammatical.

ma' always precedes the future tense AND when the gis prefix is attached to the verb conjugated in the present for example:

  1. ma'  gis-amalga-w-g   
    NEG  can-dance-NEG-3  
    's/he cannot dance'

There are some expressions that always take the negative form of the verb such as me menga (not yet) and mowen (nobody) that take the negative form of the verb: (examples from Mi'gmaq Online Dictionary)

  1. me'  mnaq  newt  ajiegw      
    NEG  yet   one   time-NEG-3  
    'it is not one o’clock yet'
  1. mu-wen   mijji-gw   
    NEG-who  eat-NEG-3  
    'no one is eating'
  1. mu  goqwei  etn-u-g   
    no  thing   be-NEG-3  
    'there is nothing there'

Below is a list of common particles after which the negated form is used. This list is not complete but these are the most common forms.

Particle When used Translation
mu before negated present and past not
mutt before negated imperative do not
'lpa mu before negated present and past not even
mu wen before negated present, past and future no one/nobody
mu goqwei' before negated present, past and future nothing
me' mnaq before negated verb not yet
ma' before negated future verb and preverb gis (can) not

moqwa' goqwei is also spelled mu goqwei and a variant of this is mu + negated verb + goqwei when used in object position. It is inanimate. As in the following example:

  1. mu   malqutm-u    goqwei  
    NEG  eat.1>0-NEG  what    
    'I eat nothing'

[edit] Negative Concord

As can be seen above, Mi'gmaq is a negative concord language. Negative concord is where "double or multiple negative[s] [do] not express an affirmative but a negative" (van der Wouden & Zwarts, 1992). This is similar to French Je n'ai vue personne 'I have seen nobody' where both the ne and personne are both negative but the resulting sentence is negative, rather than each cancelling the other out resulting in a affirmative sentence, i.e. 'I have seen someone'. Mi'gmaq has negation marked in two places with both negative particles, i.e. mu & ma, and a negative conjugation of the verb, i.e. with -u or -w added. Compare examples (10) and (11).

  1. 'lpa'tuj  eig'-p           
    boy       be.there.PST-SG  
    'the boy was there'
  1. 'lpa'tuj  mu   eimu-g-u-p           
    boy       NEG  be.there-PST-NEG-SG  
    'the boy was not there'

[edit] Word Order

The negative particle (or possibly affix) mu always appears before the verb it negates. Although words can intervene between mu and the verb it negates, mu must always precede the verb.

  1. Mali  mu   amal-gag-u-p       
    Mali  NEG  dance-PAST-NEG-SG  
    'Mali did not dance'
  1. mu   Mali  amal-gag-u-p       
    NEG  Mali  dance-PAST-NEG-SG  
    'Mali did not dance'

Placement of mu post-verbally results in ungrammaticality, as illustrated below.

  1. 'lpa'tuj  mu   eimug-u-p            
    boy       NEG  be.there.PST-NEG-SG  
    'the boy was not there'

Acceptable word orders:

  • mu eimugup 'lpa'tuj
  • mu 'lpa'tuj eimugup

Unacceptable word orders:

  • *eimugup 'lpa'tuj mu
  • *eimugup mu 'lpa'tuj
  • *'lpa'tuj eimugup mu

Furthermore, with regards to word order, it appears that negation must come right before the constituent it negates. Here is an example sentence without negation:

  1. ula   na   'lpa'tuj  ta'n  egitg'p   wi'gatign  
    this  DEM  boy       that  read.PST  book       
    'this is the boy that read the book'

If we want to negate the first clause, as to say "This is not the boy that read the book", negation must directly precede 'boy'.

  1. ula   na   mu   'lpa'tuj  ta'n  egitg'p   wi'gatign  
    this  DEM  NEG  boy       that  read.PST  book       
    'this is not the boy that read the book'

The following word orders for negation in the first clause are impossible: *TO CHECK

  • *ula na 'lpa'tuj mu...
  • *ula mu na 'lpa'tuj...
  • *mu ula na 'lpa'tuj...

If we want to negate the second clause, as to say "This is the boy that did not read the book", the word order may be varied, as long as negation comes before the verb (as discussed previously).

[edit] Scope of Negation

As stated above, mu always comes before the verb. There may be particles that intrude between mu and the negated verb, but as long as mu comes before the negated verb, the structure is grammatical. Micmac Grammar, 1976 Sometimes the meaning of the sentence can change depending on the position of mu.

  1. 'gjitm    Mali  mu   amal-gag-u-p      
    possible  Mali  NEG  dance-PST-NEG-SG  
    'it is true that Mali did not dance'

We would also expect phrases with adverb-like particles translatable as "it is possible" or "it is true" or "it is obvious" would also vary regarding negation.

[edit] Language change and negation

Often I was not able to elicit both the dual and plural forms of a verb. There are many times when I could only elicit the dual form, or times when the dual and plural forms were the same. It has been noted by our consultants that younger speakers are not using the plural forms but are using the dual form to mean both dual and plural. This seems be a language change happening currently in the speech community where the younger generation is leading the change. As noted in the paradigm above for 'eat' in the negated present tense, both dual and plural forms are the same. Here it seems that the plural form is used for both dual and plural meanings. This would strongly suggest a change happening in the speech community.

[edit] References

Clark, Jeremiah S. "A Dictionary of the Micmac Language." Rand's Micmac Dictionary. Charlottetown, PEI: The Patriot Publishing Company, 1902. Print.

Delisle, Gill L., and Manny L. Metallic. Micmac Teaching Grammar. Ecowi, QC: Thunderbird Press, 1976. Print.

L'Abbe Maillard, M. Grammaire De La Langue Mikmaque. New York: Presse Cramoisy de Jean-Marie Shea, 1864. Print.

Metallic, Janine. "Mi'gmaq Elicitation Session for Field Methods of Linguistics." Ed. Class, Carol Little and LING415. Montreal, QC: n/a, 2011. Print.

Payne, Thomas Edward. Describing Morphosyntax: a Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.

Paul-Martin, Patsy. "Mi'kmaq Verb Conjugation." Ed. Orthography, Mi'kmaq Talking Posters Smith/Francis. Truto, NS: Eastern Woodland Print Communications, 2011. Print.

Proulx, Paul. "Proto-Algonquian Verb Inflection." Studies in Native American Languages 15.2 (1990): 100-45. Print.

van der Wouden, Ton, and Frans Zwarts. "Negative Concord." D. Gilbers and S. Looyenga (eds), Language and Cognition 2. Yearbook 1992 Linguistic Theory and Knowledge Representation of the University of Groningen (1992): 317-31. Print.

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