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Summary Details

Query:   Metalinguistic Negation
Author:  Hiroaki Tanaka
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Semantics

Summary:   Dear all,
I posted a query on "metalinguistic negation" several weeks ago, to
whcih I received several responses. Thank you very much for
answering my query. The respondents are the following:

Malcah Yaeger-Dror <malcah@U.Arizona.Edu>
Pierre Larrivee <p.larrivee@aston.ac.uk>
S. Neuwirth <Neuwirth@student.uni-kassel.de>
Bart Geurts <bart.geurts@mpi.nl>
John Phillips <john@john.hmt.yamaguchi-u.ac.jp>
Chungmin Lee <clee@HUMnet.UCLA.EDU>

Among them, Chungmin Lee of Seoul National University/UCLA
FOCAL-Evidence from Korean and English" through attached file,
which may have some concern with my analysis. Bart Geurts informed
me of the presence of his paper "The mechanism of denial" in
Language 74: 274-307, 1998, which was referred to as the most recent
paper about metalinguistic negation in one of the Japanese journals of
English literature and lingusitics several months ago. I read both of
them, but unfortunately there was very little mention to my analysis of
"reversal metalinguistic negation." Geurts's paper was written as an
objection to Horn(1985, 1989) and Carston (1994), which I found very

In case you don't know what my discussion was, I repeat my 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.

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.
- ---------------------------------------------------------

John Phillips argues against me that he doesn't see no double
processing in either case of (1a) and (1b). He also says that surely a
metalinguistic negative and an ordinary negative sentence have quite
different accents and intonatiuon patterns, which is widely known to
the researchers of the negation. However, I wanted to ask if there is
any difference between (1a) and (1b), phonologically and semantically. I
agree with him that in both of (1a) and (1b) the hearer would know
that a metalinguistic negative was intended. How differently intended?
Carston says that the diference is that (1a) is forced to have access
to double-processing (garden-pathing) inference, whereas (1b) has no
such access. (1b), on the other hand, is an ordinary echoic
metalinguistic negative. This is her point. My undestanding of (1b) is
that hearer 2A's assumption about depriving him of B's lecture(when
hearing the first clause of 2B) must be the one contradict to the
affirmative (first) clause of 2B. I dub the contradictory assumption
"contradictory (double-processing) affirmation", because before 2B's
answer, a reply marker "No" must be implied. When the hearer is
replied with "NO" implicitly or explicitly, he assumes that the speaker's
reply is opposed to what he expected to be, in that double-processing
occurs. The second negative clause of 2B is merely a repetition, a
mere echoic use of negation, which is semantically different from the
first negative clause in (1a).

I don't know if Pierre Larrivee's semantic tests support my idea. But
his testing of NPI, PPI and Universal Quantifier focus with
metalinguistic negation is of great interest and concern to me, and
very helpful, although I have not reached a definite conclusion from the
results of his testing. His testing is that unlike with ordinary descriptive
negation, metalinguistic negative should not allow NPIs and allow PPIs.
Also, metalinguistic negation I am giving should not be able to focus on
some universal quantifier inside its scope. See (3a), (4a) and (5a)
respectively. Asd with my case of reversal metalinguistic negation, his
(expected) results seem to obtain, i.e. all the tested examples are
questionable and unnnatural sentences of English. See (3b), (4b) and
(5b) respectedly.

(3) He's not going to deprive us from the slightest lecture, is he?
a. ?He's not depriving us from the slightest lecture, he's sparing
b. ??He's sparing them to us, he's not depriving us from the slightest

(4) Is he already depriving us of his presence?
a. He's not already depriving us of his presence, he's sparing it to us!
b. ?He's sparing it to us, he's not already depriving us of his presence!

UQ Focus
(5) I hope that doesn't mean he's depriving us from all his lectures.
a. He won't deprive us from all his lectures, he'll spare them to us.
b. ?He'll spare them to us, he won't deprive us from all of his lectures.

Do you agree with his results? One thing I can conclude from this
testing is that there IS a difference between metalinguistic negation
and reversal metalinguistic negation.

If you have further comments on this matter, please don't hesitate
to discuss with me. I'll post the second summary if i receive good
enough replies.

Best wishes,

Hiroaki Tanaka

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


LL Issue: 10.771
Date Posted: 20-May-1999
Original Query: Read original query


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