A linguistic study of English double negation and its realization in Arabic

Sahar Abdulsalam Alshargabi, Dina Fahmi Kamil, Ali Hussein Hazem


The studies on multiple negation have been conducted intensively in linguistics, but very few studies have focused on multiple negation in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Although multiple negation appears in informal varieties, researchers find it an important topic for research. First, as linguists, we believe that all kinds of language varieties are worth studying. Second, the complexity of the structure of multiple negation raises queries about the difficulties that Arab students will encounter when they attempt to translate them from English to MSA. Our study focuses on double negation (DN) because, unlike other types of multiple negation, it yields a positive interpretation. This paper begins with a review of studies on multiple negation in English, MSA, and other languages, using a framework of generative grammar and the minimalist program. We then report on our empirical study of 60 randomly selected Arab students of English who were asked to translate 20 sentences containing multiple negation into MSA. To determine whether the intensity of their exposure to English would impact their understanding of these negative English structures, the students studying at levels two and four were selected. The students’ responses were quantitatively analysed. The results showed that MSA exhibits both DN and negative concord constructions. Moreover, the syntactic analyses of DN provided by Watanabe (2004) and Giannakidou (2000) concord with DN in MSA with some considerations. Additionally, all the sampled students had difficulty translating these types of sentences, indicating that intensity of exposure did not cause differences in performance.


Arabic; English; double negation; negative concord; negative particles

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v9i3.24267

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