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You are here: Home / News & Events / Events / All Events Here / CLS Speaker Series - Frances Blanchette (Penn State) Linguistic Evidence and Stigmatized Structures: The Case of English Negative Concord

CLS Speaker Series - Frances Blanchette (Penn State) Linguistic Evidence and Stigmatized Structures: The Case of English Negative Concord

When Feb 09, 2018
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Where Moore 127
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Linguistic Evidence and Stigmatized Structures: The Case of English Negative Concord 

Traditional theoretical models assume a grammatical distinction between Negative Concord (NC) and Double Negation (DN) languages (Zeijlstra 2004). In NC, two or more syntactic negations yield a single semantic one (e.g., the ‘I ate nothing’ reading of “I didn’t eat nothing”), and in DN each negation contributes to the semantics (e.g. ‘It is not the case that I ate nothing’). English NC is associated with a heavy social stigma (Horn 2010). As such, traditional forms of usage and acceptability judgment data may obscure speakers’ grammatical knowledge of the construction. This paper contributes controlled experimental data to inform theoretical models of English NC and DN. 

A growing body of experimental work demonstrates that DN is possible in prototypical NC languages, including Spanish, Catalan, and French (Espinal & Prieto 2011; Prieto et al. 2013; Déprez et al. 2015; Espinal et al. 2016). In these languages, DN readings are associated with denial contexts (Geurts 1998), as well as marked prosody and gesture. We present data from two experiments that corroborate these findings for “Standard English”, typically assumed to be a DN language. We explore the roles of syntax, pragmatic context, and prosody in shaping the production, interpretation, and perception of English sentences with two negatives. Our results demonstrate that, like in prototypical NC languages (Espinal et al. 2016), English speakers reliably exploit both syntactic and pragmatic cues in selecting an NC or a DN interpretation.