Negative ions have been clearly identified in silane rf plasmas used for the deposition of amorphous silicon. Mass spectra were measured for monosilicon up to pentasilicon negative ion radical groups in power-modulated plasmas by means of a mass spectrometer mounted just outside the glow region. Negative ions were only observed over a limited range of power modulation frequency which corresponds to particle-free plasma conditions. The importance of negative ions regarding particulate formation is demonstrated and commented upon.