LINGUIST List 26.4885

Tue Nov 03 2015

Calls: General Ling, Phonology, Pragmatics, Psycholing, Semantics/Germany

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 03-Nov-2015
From: Sophie Repp <>
Subject: Questions, Answers and Negation
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Full Title: Questions, Answers and Negation

Date: 20-Jan-2016 - 22-Jan-2016
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact Person: Sophie Repp
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Phonology; Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Semantics

Call Deadline: 10-Nov-2015

Meeting Description:

The presence of negation in an utterance can have interpretative effects for which it has been surprisingly hard to make precise empirical generalizations. Prominent contexts where this happens are negative polar questions and dialogues where a simple 'yes' or 'no' is used as a reply to a negative question or assertion. In polar questions, the presence of a negation may signal that the speaker's expectation with respect to the state-of-affairs asked about is biased towards a positive or a negative answer. The particular bias is assumed to depend inter alia on the syntactic position of the negative marker, the prosody of the question and the context, but the empirical generalizations are still controversial. In dialogues, the use of 'yes' or 'no' has been claimed to be ambiguous if uttered as a reply to a negative question or assertion. There are indications for subtle preferences, which depend on the syntax, the prosody and the context - and which are largely unexplored.

Theoretical analyses of the meaning of 'yes' and 'no' responses are (a) semantic-pragmatic accounts where the particles are analysed in terms of anaphoricity, e.g. with positive or negative propositions serving as anaphors, or (b) syntactic accounts, where the particles are assumed to be remnants in an otherwise elided clause. Analyses of polar question bias (a) assign a special pragmatic status to the proposition in the sentence radical of the question, (b) derive the bias from the interaction of negation and a VERUM operator scoping over the positive proposition, or (c) explain the observed data patterns in terms of speech acts and negation operating on the sentence radical. Thus in the semantic-pragmatic accounts of both types of phenomena, an important role is assigned to the positive proposition that the negation scopes over.

The positive proposition also has been claimed to play an important role during the processing of negative declarative sentences, which lead to increased processing costs in comparison to positive declarative sentences. Negative sentences are thought to effect two mental simulations in the mental representation of discourses: one for the expected states-of-affairs, which is denoted by the (positive) proposition without the negation operator, and one for the actual states-of-affairs. However, again several issues are still unresolved, for instance (1) whether comprehenders indeed routinely represent the expected states-of-affairs during comprehension or whether there are certain conditions under which comprehenders directly represent the actual state of affairs, and (2) whether, and if so at what point in the comprehension process, comprehenders evaluate the expected state of affairs against their general world knowledge and its fit with the linguistic and extra-linguistic utterance context.

The present workshop aims at gaining a better understanding of the role of negation in questions and in assertions from an empirical, a theoretical-linguistic and a processing point-of-view. Its goal is to bring together research on the influence of syntactic, prosodic and contextual factors on question bias, on response strategies and on the processing of negative sentences. We particularly welcome contributions that combine quantitative empirical research with rigorous theoretical analyses.

Invited Speakers:

Mante Nieuwland (The University of Edinburgh)
Pilar Prieto (Icrea/Pompeu Fabra)
Floris Roelofsen (University of Amsterdam)

2nd Call for Papers:

Authors are invited to submit contributions that address (inter alia) one or several of the following research questions:

How do different bias sources (original speaker belief vs. new evidence in context) affect the syntactic form (e.g. presence/absence of negation, its location, particles) of a polar question? How does intonation interact with that syntactic form to convey the special pragmatic effects? How do bias and surface form (syntax and phonology) of a question affect the choice of response particle? What is the range of cross-linguistic variation?

Do comprehenders always represent the expected state-of-affairs when processing negative sentences or do they sometimes represent the actual states-of affairs directly? At what point in the comprehension process do comprehenders evaluate the expected state of affairs against their general world knowledge and its fit with the linguistic and extra-linguistic utterance context? If so, what are the relevant conditions? Are there conditions that relate to the surface form of negative sentences, to contextual biases? How are different kinds of polar questions processed and interpreted?

What licenses polarity sensitive items (e.g. negative polarity items) in some interrogative environments but not in others? Under which conditions do they have an impact on their pragmatic interpretation (bias, rhetoricity)? Do polarity sensitive items in the question affect the shape of the selected response / the choice of response particle? Do they influence the processing of negative sentences in a specific way?

Please submit an anonymous abstract, max. 2 pages, A4, 11 pt. font, all margins 2.5 cm, examples and references included, pdf-format.

For the submission procedure and further details, see

Submission deadline: 10 November 2015
Notification of acceptance: 8 December 2015

The workshop is organized by the members of the three projects:

YesNo: Affirmative and rejective responses to assertions and polar questions (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin: Berry Claus, Manfred Krifka, Marlijn Meijer, Sophie Repp)
BiasQ: Bias in Polar Questions (Universität Konstanz: Bettina Braun, Maribel Romero)
MoLCINS: One- versus two-step models of language comprehension: Investigations employing negative sentences (Eberhard-Karl-Universität Tübingen: Barbara Kaup, Hartmut Leuthold)

Page Updated: 03-Nov-2015