CLS Speaker Series - Frances Blanchette (Penn State University) Linguistic variation in English negation: Structure, meaning, and sound
Linguistic variation in English negation: Structure, meaning, and sound
Linguistic negation is a fundamental aspect of human language and thought. In English, there exists rich variation in how negative meanings are expressed. For example, a sentence like ‘I didn’t eat nothing’ can mean either that I ate nothing, or that it is not the case that I ate nothing. In this talk I discuss a series of studies that examine micro- variation in the structure, meaning, and sounds of English negative sentences. The results demonstrate how the expression and interpretation of negative sentences and words is shaped by a complex interaction and interdependence between: (i) syntactic structure; (ii) sentence-internal (semantic) meaning; (iii) pragmatic context; (iv) prosody; and (v) social or prescriptive norms. I discuss what these combined results implicate for grammatical theories of negation and linguistic variation, as well as for the role of linguistic complexity in sentence processing, and I also discuss how the results inform our understanding of the relationship between grammar and usage.