Expletive negation (EN) is commonly considered to be a unitary phenomenon cross-linguistically codified. In this article I provide empirical arguments to show that in fact EN consists of distinct subtypes and propose a twofold partition between weak and strong EN. More specifically, by investigating Italian, I show that weak EN structures maintain some features typically associated to standard negation (for example, they allow weak-NPIs and n-words) whereas strong EN structures do not, forming a natural class within. Moreover, I highlight a previous unnoticed case of Italian EN clauses I dubbed “Surprise Negative (SNEG) Sentences”. SNEGs are distinct from any other EN type sentences for their semantic, syntactic and pragmatic features. I will provide tests based on Ethical Dative, Expletive e, discourse- related constructions (like focus and topic phenomena) and mirativity value; moreover, I characterize them on the basis of intonational features showing that they blend interrogative and exclamative acoustic features.
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