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Query Details

Query Subject:   Metalinguistic negation
Author:   Hiroaki Tanaka
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Semantics

Query:   Dear all,

I'm working on ''metalinguistic negation'' currently discussed by
Horn (1989), Carston (1994, 1998) and many others. One thing I want
to investigate is the properties of ''metalinguistic negation in reversal
order,'' as shown in (1b) below. (1a) is a standard example of
metalinguistic negation.

(1) a. I won't deprive you of my lecture on negation; I'll spare you it.
b. I'll spare you my lecture on negation; I won't deprive you of it.

Ordinarily, the first clause in standard metalinguistic negation of (1a)
is processed truth-conditionally, but the second clause causes the
hearer to contradict the contents of the negation of the first clause,
so that s/he is forced to go back to the first clause and interpret it
metalinguistically. These are the processes of 'contradictoriness' and

What about (1b)? Carston (1994, 1998) claims that ''it is very
unlikely that there is any garden-pathing, requiring double processing of
the negative sentence.'' She cites the following dialogue.

(2) A: Don't deprive us of your lecture on negation.
B: I'll spare you my lecture on negation; I won't deprive you of it.

Double processing of the negative sentence such as (1a) means that
at first the hearer considers the first clause to be truth-functional
(ordinary) negation, but later s/he reconsiders it to be metalinguistic.
Carston says that there is no such processing in the second clause of
(2B). Do you agree with her? My idea is that on hearing the first clause
of B's response, speaker A considers it to be contradictory to what he
expected to be in his original utterance, i.e. B's giving lecture on
negation, in that double processing of the positive sentence occurs
there after A hears B's not depriving him of it. My query is: What is the
esential difference of (1a) and (1b, 2B)? I would appreciate it if you
make some similar examples with context of ''reversal metalinguistic

Thank you very much in advance. I'm looking forward to your reply.
I'll post a summary soon. Please e-mail me to the following address.

Hiroaki Tanaka

Associate Professor
Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences
Tokushima University
1-1, Minamijosanjima
TEL/FAX +81 886 56 7125

Carston, R. (1996) Metalinguistic negation and echoic use. Journal of
Pragmatics 25: 309-330.
- -. (1998) Negation, 'presupposition' and the semantics/pragmatics
distinction. Journal of Linguistics 34: 309-350.
Hron, L.(1989) A Natural History of Negation. Chicago University Press.
LL Issue: 10.624
Date posted: 29-Apr-1999


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