A sociolinguistic study of English negation in Manitoba

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Hadei, Marzieh
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Negation is a linguistically universal phenomenon (Dahl, 1979); however, it may be expressed differently within and across languages (Miestamo, 2005). This study pursues an explanation of variation in English negation in Manitoba and uses a corpus of interviews recorded in Winnipeg, Steinbach, and Altona-Winkler-Morden. It investigates the variable use of three forms of English negation: no-negation (e.g., I have no food), not-negation (e.g., I don’t have any food) and negative concord (e.g., I don’t have no food). This research concentrates on both linguistic and social factors through the lens of variationist sociolinguistics. It aims to explore how different linguistic factors i.e., verb type and indefinite pronoun and social factors i.e., generation, gender, socioeconomic status, rurality, religious affiliation and first language impact the variation of English negation in Manitoba. This research, in particular, investigates whether there is a change in progress in English negation in Manitoba. The most obvious finding to emerge from this study is that linguistic factors have a more robust effect on the variation of English negation than social factors. While lexical verbs strongly favour not-negation, functional verbs significantly disfavour this variant. This study supports Tottie’s (1991 b) hypothesis that high frequency verbs like functional verbs tend to appear with no-negation and low frequency verbs like lexical verbs favour not-negation. The findings show that although there is no obvious change in progress among generations, there is a split between older generations and younger generations. Low German L1 speakers also prefer no-negation in their conversations more than English L1 speakers. This study suggests that according to shortest path principle (Wald, 1996) these speakers transfer their L1 form of negation into their L2. Location also shows significant impact on the variation of English negation, with Steinbach having the highest rate of no-negation among all locations.