En réponse ŕ =?win-1250?Q?Tamás_Racskó?= :

>   My French grammar gives sentences with _ne_ without _pas_. It
>says that it's possible in literary language.

And even there it gives an archaic feeling. "Ne" is also used alone in 
*affirmative* completive subclauses after a verb of fear:
Je crains qu'il ne vienne: I fear he will come.
To make it negative, you *have to* write:
Je crains qu'il ne vienne pas: I fear he will not come.
This too is only used in the literary language. In spoken language it 
sounds quaint.

>  On the contrary, it's
>possible to use _pas_ without _ne_: I refer to the examples of The
>Collins French Dictionary: "une pomme pas mu^re", "elle travaille,
>(mais) lui pas / pas lui". Cf.

Yep, nominal negation is completely taken over by "pas", both in spoken and 
written French: pas d'eau: no water.

>   IMHO, that's the point. Word _pas_ is a simple placeholder for
>the negative "zero complement". If _pas_ would be part of the
>negative, we would expect it before _jamais_, _personne_ etc. Note
>that _jamais_ is affirmative in phrases like "a tout jamais pour
>jamais", _personne_ is affirmative, too, therefore linguistically
>they not part of the negative.

It's etymologically right, and mostly right in the literary language, which 
still uses "ne" in negations, but *completely* wrong in the spoken 
language. One important thing you have to realise is that in spoken French, 
"ne" has *disappeared* and the negative meaning has *completely* been taken 
over by things like "pas", "jamais", "personne", "rien" (which happens to 
also have a nominal negative meaning: "nothing", but is etymologically 
affirmative - from Latin "res": thing -). See the following examples (with 
pronunciation in our version of X-SAMPA):

J'vois pas c'que tu veux dire: I don't understand what you mean.
/Zvwa'pa sk@_Xtyv2'diR/
J'ai jamais fait ça de ma vie ! : I've never ever done that!
/ZEZamEfE'sa dma'vi/
Y'a personne ici: There's nobody here.
/japER'sOn i'si/
J'entends rien: I can't hear a thing.

All those are perfectly correct examples of spoken French, and actually how 
one is expected to talk like. Using "ne" is spoken French sounds as if you 
were reading a book. It's for the written, not the spoken, language.

If you wonder how we can use "personne" in both a negative (nobody) and 
affirmative (person) meaning, the two meanings never overlap. "Personne" in 
a negative meaning is always without an article and at the position the 
negative word must take (after the conjugated verb). "Personne" in an 
affirmative meaning is a noun, and as such is required to be preceded with 
an article (nouns can't appear without article in French, even mass nouns).

In other terms, in Spoken French, the negative adverbs are things like 
"pas", "jamais", "personne", "rien", put just after the conjugated verb 
(they are really suffixes, or maybe clitics, and form a single phonological 
word with the verb, along with the personal affixes). You can't talk about 
circumfixes in French negatives because there's no "ne" in spoken French.

>   Thus we have a negative phrase like "ne <verb> <complement>"
>where we have to use _pas_ in the position of <complement> if it's

Although this is true etymologically (etymologically, "pas" does mean 
"step" - and is still used as such as a noun in modern French -, and was 
used to give more power to the negation - which, being an unaccented word, 
was getting slowly lost - as: "not even a step". This use of the negation 
of a small part to indicate simple negation is a common phenomenon in 
languages all over the world - no example, but I read a few articles about 
that -, and as it happened in spoken French, usually after a while the 
originally negative word disappears and the originally affirmative addition 
takes over the full negative meaning).

Christophe Grandsire.

You need a straight mind to invent a twisted conlang.