Early second language has been defined as a restricted linguistic system that can offer a\ud “window” on language genesis. In this paper, I model the acquisition of negation by L2\ud (adult) learners as a sequence of constraint rankings in the framework of Optimality Theory.\ud The rankings shift from pragmatics via conventionalization of negation as a focus operator to\ud syntax. Early language is argued to follow the same path. The transition from protolanguage\ud to language is located in the shift from pragmatic combinations of symbols to semantic\ud recursion over propositions as visible in the use of negation as a truth-functional operator. In\ud this view, semantic recursion precedes and drives syntactic recursion
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