Most languages have words that function as negative polarity items. Is this believed to be true of all human languages? Are there specific languages that have been plausibly claimed not to have any negative polarity items?

1 Answer 1


Most languages I know have something like NPIs, though there is less use for at least some of them in languages like French or Yiddish that use Negative Concord.

The bibliography in this article may help, especially van der Wouden 1996, Horn and Kato 2000, and Zeijlstra, Hedde, and Soehn 2007.

  • 2
    Right. Me too -- most or all of the languages I know of have something like NPIs. It's just that I've never heard anyone explicitly say "We think this is universal" or "Here's a counterexample showing it isn't." Which is weird, since normally us linguists are just falling all over ourselves to declare reasonably-common properties "universal." :) I'll check out those leads, though. Thanks! Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 3:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.