LINGUIST List 10.1657

Tue Nov 2 1999

Sum: Negative Raising

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Hiroaki Tanaka, Negative Raising

Message 1: Negative Raising

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1999 01:08:21 +0900
From: Hiroaki Tanaka <>
Subject: Negative Raising

Dear all,
 I posted a query about "negative raising in English" in mid August, to
which I received several responses of the following people. I want to
say thank you to all of them and I post a summary on the List. and I'm
sorry for the delayed summary because of my paper being delayed by
my slight headache and dizziness for a couple of months.

 Chad D. Nilep
 Vincent Jenkins
 Benjamin T. Brueing muawiyaMIT.EDU
 Wayles Browne
 John David Stone
 C. Whiteley
 Douglas Dee
 Besty McCall
 hassan makhad
 Philip Grew
 Remy Viredaz

 If you didin't see it at that time, my query is as follows:
- ------------------------------------------------------
I am working on "negative raising" or "transferred negation," to
which I intend to give a semantic and pragmatic explanation. The study
I'm working on leads to two main questions as follows.

(1) Why do speakers prefer transferred negation "I don't think..." to
subordinate clause nagation "I think ... not..."? Is it really the case
that the negative operator "not" is "raised" to the main clause by
formulating some kind of syntacti devise? And are the two "nots" of "I
don't think" and "You/He don't/doesn't think" equally transferred from
the subordinate clause?

(2) If "I don't think..." type is regarded as unmarked, then "I
think...not..." type must be marked negation. Are they equal
semantically and pragmatically? If not, the marked type "I think not"
can only be explained adequately by giving it special and marked
reading. What is that?

 (2) concerns me most, because I have
found a lot of "I think ... not" type examples in the spoken English,
especially in the utterance of interviews. The first two examples
below are the authentic and real native speaker's utterances recorded
by journals for ESL learners in Japan. And the last one is from the
lines of "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back."

(3) Interviewer: As a children's author, I'd like to ask you, Mary, what
kind of message does this affair send to the children of America?
Mary Ryan: Well, unfortunately or not, as the case may be, I think the
children of America are growing up in a very worldy time. Half their
parents are divored. They have probably hjeard similar issues, or
overheard similar issues, being discussed in one of their several homes.
Um, they watch _South Park_, they tune in to the Internet. _I think_ the
children of America are _not_ the blushing innocents that perhaps my
generation was supposed to be.

(4) Interviewer: If President Clinton did have sex in the White House
with Monica Lewinsky, how serious is that, do you think?
Jimmy Carter (Former President of the United States): That in itself is
not serious at all, as far as legal aspects are concerned, or as far as
his performance of his duties are performed. And if you notice, none of
the allegations that are now being considered by Chairman Hyde and
the House judiciary Committee have anything to do with sex. They
involve not telling the truth, and they involve possible abuses of power,
and so forth. So legally, _I think_ the sexual acts, if they did occur,
_don't_ have any impact on his performance of duty or on the legalities
of the impeachment hearings.

(5) Han Solo: Well Princess, it looks like you managed to keep me here
a while longer.
Princess Leia Organa: I had nothing to do with it. General Rieekan
thinks it's dangerous for anyone to leave the system until they've
activated the energy shild.
Han Solo: That's a good story. _I think_ you just _can't_ bear to let a
gorgious guy like me our of your sight.
Princess Leia Organa: I don't know where you get you delusions, laser

My question is: Can you use "I don't think" type instead of "I
think...not" type in (4)-(7)? If possible, are there any meaning changes?
If not, why not?

(3) Can you say: I don't think the children of America are the blushing
innocents that perhaps my generation was supposed to be?

( )Yes, I can use "I don't think". / ( )No, I can't. :

(4) Can you say: So legally, I don't think the sexual acts, if they did
occur, have any impact on his performance of duty or on the legalities
of the impeachment hearings?

( )Yes, I can use "I don't think". / ( )No, I can't. :

(5) Can you say: I don't think you just can bear to let a gorgious guy like
me our of your sight?

( )Yes, I can use "I don't think". / ( )No, I can't. :

 Finally, concerning negative rasing, I think "I don't think" and
"You/He don't/doesn't think" are different. Do you agree? Which do
you prefer, (a) or (b) tag question?

(6) You don't think he is fool enough to stick around here, (a)do you? /
(b)is he?

(7) He doesn't think they are fool enough to stick around here, (a)does
he? / (b)are they?

(8) I don't think he is fool enough to stick around here, (a)do I? / (b)is
- -----------------------------------------------------
In choosing "I don't think" or "I think not" in (1)-(5), all people accept
"I don't think" type except (5), commenting that "I don't think" is less
formal, "I don't think" is a weaker expression, which means "I don't
think" is pragmatically considered to be a "hedge". Among the
respondants, one said that "I don't think" is a kind of theme, topic, or
old information, which is to say that "I think not" is rheme, comment,
or new information. I totally agree with this opinion, which became the
main topic of my paper. On the cntrary, "I don't think" in (5) is not
acceptable, because for most poeple "just" blocks the raising of "not"
to the matrix clause sytactically and (perhaps?) sematically.

 In (6)-(8), all people prefer "do you/does he" in (6) and (7) and "is
he" in (8). This is because "You don't think" and "He doesn't
think" are different in that the former phrases are regarded as normal
propositions whereas the latter is a modal expression which expresses
the speaker's instantanious judgement of the subordinate clause.

 After several replies, I ask the respondants in person further
questions about tag questions, paraphrasal relations of adverbs and "I
don't think" and "I think not" including "can". Some of them answered
those questions. I want to express my gratitude to them. My second
query and the answers are as follows:

- ----------------------------------------------------
Thank you very much for answering my query about negative
raising/transferred negation on the Linguist List about a week ago.
Before I post a summary on the List, I would like to ask you in person
about some other examples of similar nature. Please reply to me
directly to the following address if you can and have some time to

 I got the idea that the difference between _I don't think ..._ and _I
think...not..._ is the one between theme(topic) and rheme(comment), a
kind of old and new information. For example, in exmaple (1) below, Tina
Podlodowski does not respond to the interviewer's qustion correctly,
i.e. she does not respond to his presupposition "there is a gay agenda."
In general, people presuppose the existence of A to answer "What is
A"-type question. For example, In "What is you age?" you can't deny
that your age exists. However, in (1) Tina denies that there is a gay
agenda, using _I think ... not..._type negation. If so, the subordinate
clause in _I think...not..._ should express rhematic/commentary/new
information, while ordinary _I don't think_ type has some kind of
thematic/topic/old information in its subordinate clause. Do you agree
with me? If so, in (1), is it possible to use _I don't think_ type, i.e., I
think there really is an agenda. If you can use _I don't think..._, I would
like to know what the difference is.

(1)Interviewer: Well, what is the gay agenda---gay and lesbian agenda?
Tina Podlodowski: I think there really isn't an agenda. I think it's---the
needs of the community are as diverse as the community.--English
Journal, April 1999

Again, the same question: Is it possible to use "I don't think the
question is in response to my movie" in (2)?

(2) Interviewer: So do you recognize the responsibility that you carry
as a filmmaker, as a Native American filmmaker?
Chris Eyre: I think the question isn't in reponse to my movie. I mean, if
you look at my movie, it's totally a self-concsious movie.--English
Journal, August, 1999

 What abou the opposite case? Is it possible to use "I think it was not
more difficult to get my position" in (3) below?

(3) Interviewer: Was it more difficult to attain your position as a
lesbian, and do you find that some people still reject you just because
of your sexual orientation?
Tina Podlodowski: I don't think it was more difficult to get my position.-
-English Journal, April 1999

 Finally, I don't understand why David in (5) uses "I think it hasn't"
instead of "I don't think it has." Can you use "I don't think it has"?

(4) Interviewer: Now, of course, there is the competing system, right?
How are you doing in terms of...I mean..., the competing system came
out with something called Windows. Has that affected your sales
adversely, or have consumers basically remained loyal and have sided
with you?
David: Well, I think it hasn't. It's expanded the total market, is what it
has done.--English Journal, April 1999
- ----------------------------------------------------
The results of (1)-(3):

(1) a. OK: 1 person / ?:1 person / *: 4 person
 b. OK: 4 / ?: 0 / *: 2
 c. OK: 2 / ?: 0 / *: 4
 d. OK: 4 / ?: 0 / *: 2

(2) a: OK: 0 / *: 6
 b. OK: 6 / *: 0
 c. OK: 3 / *: 3

(3) c. OK: 1 / *: 4

To question (4), I got various replies, which say that mostly (a) and (b)
are the same, but different in subtle meaning. For example, the speaker
feels more certain in (b) than in (a), and more polite in (a) than in (b).
Another reply is that two "can's" function differently in that (a) means
"I don't think you re allowed to leave," whereas (b) means "I don't
think you are able to leave." All answers are slightly different from
Horn (1978).

 I close my summaries here. If you have further comments
and questions to me, please don't hesitate to e-mail to the following
address. I'm looking forward to your suggestive opinions.

Best wishes,

Hiroaki Tanaka

Associate Professor

Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences
Tokushima University

1-1, Minamijosanjima
Tokushima, 770-8502
Japan (office) (home)
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