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Auteur: Denis DELFITTO

On the models of analysis for negation: Clause-types, pragmatic enrichment, and processing

Abstract/Résumé: In this talk, I will try to show how considerations of processing, complex modalities of pragmatic enrichment and the semantics of clause-types all conspire to identify models of analysis for negation that arguably attain reasonable standards of empirical and explanatory adequacy. As for processing, I will discuss the hypothesis that negative sentences require considerable cognitive and working memory resources, due to context-dependency (‘plausible denial’) and to representational requirements (the ‘progressive’ construction of both the negated and the actual state of affairs), by considering the possible advantages of extending the application of psycho- and neurolinguistic experimental protocols to cases of atypical cognitive development, and in particular to populations affected by developmental dyslexia. As for pragmatic enrichment, I will consider the complex case of expletive negation in German temporal clauses, based on Krifka’s hypothesis that this phenomenon cannot be reduced to other well-known instances of double-negation involving expletivity, but also arguing for the untenability of Krifka’s distinction between an ‘assertional’ and a ‘propositional’ negation. In the proposed analysis, the lower negation in the temporal clause acts as a pragmatically induced scope-marker, by simply indicating that sentential negation is only interpreted in the temporal clause (though this happens at some ‘internal’ level of logical representation within the inferential chain activated by compositional interpretation). If correct, this analysis supports the view that pragmatically induced aspects of meaning are somehow ‘internal’ to the semantic computation and may also be pre-encoded in morphosyntax. As for the subtle forms of interplay between negation and the semantics of clause-types, I will consider the behavior of ‘expletive’ negation in negative exclamatives. Building on joint work with G. Fiorin, I propose that exclamatives denote a set of propositions structured into a Boolean algebra and that the negation imposes an ordering of informativity upon this structure. Informally, the closer a proposition is to the bottom of the algebraic structure the more informative (and, therefore, less likely to be true) it is and the closer a proposition is to the top of the structure the less informative (and, consequently, more likely to be true) it is. In exclamative sentences, the negation indicates that the proposition that the speaker finds ‘surprising’ is as close as possible to the top of the Boolean algebra. This analysis accounts for some of the fundamental properties of this type of negation, including its inability to license NPI’s and to block PPI’s.