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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Alice TER MEULEN

Negation, focus meaning and strengthening in discourse structure.

Abstract/Résumé: The current investigation of negated focus particles and aspectual adverbs explores coherence as constraint on the interpretation of discourse. The fronted, negated focus particle 'not only' in (1a) opens up stronger alternatives, of which one must asserted for the discourse to be coherent. (1) a. Not only does he like her, he loves her. 'Not only p' hence presupposes p, and this subordinated presupposition survives the negation to be inferred from the entire phrase. Auxiliary inversion requires this downwards entailing scalar context, as the positive polarity discourse in (1b) is incoherent, if not downright unacceptable, given the commonly accepted meaning of the verbs. (1) b. ??He only loves her. He doesn’t like her. The structure of negated polarized discourse hence prevails over the commonly accepted lexical meaning. Structured by the negated scalar 'only', the discourse may coerce or overrule commonly accepted norms or default assumptions on the way things ‘ordinarily’ proceed to be coherent, as in (2) and (3). (2) Not only would I rather be in Paris, I would (even) rather be Seine St. Denis. (3) No longer does she only love him, she (now) (even) likes him. Given that Seine St. Denis is considered a less desirable place than Paris, the speaker of (2) declares his current location as even less desirable. In (3) the negative aspectual adverb 'no longer' licenses the inversion, triggering the negatively polarized presupposition that survives as an inference from the entire sentence. The focus alternatives must contain liking him, by default lexically weaker, but in the structure of (3) reinterpreted as stronger, reversing the default lexical gradation. Hence we infer that the speaker of (3) considers loving to be weaker than liking, coercing lexical meaning by the maxim of coherence in negated polarized discourse structure, contrasted to (1b). Horn, Larry. (2000), Pick a theory (not just any theory). Indiscriminatives and the free-choice indefinite’, in Horn, L. & Kato, Y. (eds.) Negation and Polarity. Syntactic and semantic perspectives. , 147-192. Oxford and New York, Oxford U. P. Rooth, Mats. (1992), A theory of focus interpretation, Natural Language Semantics 1. Ter Meulen, Alice (2006). Cohesion in temporal context: aspectual adverbs as dynamic indexicals. In Zanuttini R. et al., (eds.), Comparative and Cross-linguistic Research in Syntax and Semantics: Negation, Tense and Clausal Architecture, 362–77. Georgetown: Georgetown U. P. Ter Meulen, Alice. (2012). Temporal reasoning as indexical inference. In Jaszczolt, K. & de Saussure, L. (eds.), Time: Language, Cognition and Reality (Oxford Studies of Time in Language and Thought, vol. 1.) N. Y. & Oxford: Oxford U. P.