Morphosyntactic finiteness as increased complexity in a mixed negation system

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This paper presents data from negation in Sri Lankan Malay (SLM), a language whose grammar has converged typologically on the grammar of Sri Lankan Muslim Tamil, and to some extent of Sinhala. SLM negation exhibits greater inflectional complexity than its lexifier, by encoding finiteness and tense features. SLM has also developed independently of the other Sri Lankan languages. It has developed a strict morphological contrast between all non-finite negation contexts on the one hand (infinitives, participles, and imperatives), and finite negation contexts (tensed verbs). This effectively circumvents the Dravidian constraint blocking co-occurring tense and negation morphology, in order to emphasize a contrast which is salient in the discourse structure that is common to the languages in the sprachbund.


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