The rise of unemphatic negation: two standard negation constructions in Oji-Cree and their patterns of use


  • Matthew Windsor SIL International / Mishamikoweesh Corp.



Oji-Cree, Ojibwe, negation, pragmatics


Oji-Cree (Algonquian) makes use of two negation constructions which overlap in non-future environments and differ subtly in their pragmatic contexts of use. Ci-negation is used for neutral, descriptive negation whereas hsii-negation is associated with polemic, emphatic-like uses within stronger assertions. While hsii-negation dates to Proto-Ojibwe, I show that ci-negation developed more recently from indirect irrealis expressions as a way to downplay the inherent abruptness of negation. This represents an opposite pathway from Jespersen’s Cycle, which is partly motivated by the desire to emphasize negatives. Oji-Cree ci-negation instead arose as a new unemphatic expression, motivated by the desire to avoid social tension. Though many languages of the world feature multiple standard negation constructions, the development of these systems remain to be investigated in relation to their diachrony and social contexts. This study contributes to our knowledge of why and how such systems might arise


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How to Cite

Windsor M. The rise of unemphatic negation: two standard negation constructions in Oji-Cree and their patterns of use . LTC [Internet]. 2022Jan.1 [cited 2023Dec.4];2(2):187-221. Available from:



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