Irregular Negatives, Implicatures, and Idioms by Wayne A. Davis

By Wayne A. Davis

The writer integrates, expands, and deepens his past guides approximately abnormal (or “metalinguistic”) negations. a complete of ten unique negatives—several formerly unclassified—are analyzed. The logically abnormal negations deny diversified implicatures in their root. All are in part non-compositional yet thoroughly conventional.
The writer argues that of the abnormal unfavourable meanings are implicatures. The others are semantically instead of pragmatically ambiguous. for the reason that their ambiguity is neither lexical nor structural, direct abnormal negatives fulfill the traditional definition of idioms as syntactically advanced expressions whose that means is non-compositional. in contrast to stereotypical idioms, idiomatic negatives lack fastened syntactic varieties and are hugely compositional. the ultimate bankruptcy analyzes different “free shape” idioms, together with abnormal interrogatives and comparatives, self-restricted verb words, numerical verb words, and obvious propositional perspective and speech act reports.

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Negative polarity items are not always permitted with not, however, when the negation is irregular. Thus The sun is not larger than any planets is most naturally interpreted as a regular negation denying what The sun is larger than some planets asserts. It can be interpreted as an metalinguistic-implicature denial when there is stress on any to contrast it with a preferred quantifier,13 but it cannot have the limiting-implicature denial interpretation of The sun is not larger than some planets. Vulcan is not at all/yet/ever hot have no presupposition-canceling interpretation.

John may be willing to not play rather than play even though he is willing to play; but in that case he is not unwilling to play. S believes not p rather than p, in contrast, is equivalent to S believes that not p, not that p. 5 Other Irregular Negatives 25 Another reason I do not treat ‘neg-raising’ as more than a label is that in some negative sentences the same ambiguity as (34) cannot be attributed to whether the negation is understood as applying to the main clause or a subordinate clause.

Omitting it’s a viola in (16) would not change how hearers would be most likely to interpret That is not a violin. The presence or expectation of a clarifying sequent is also not definitive. If asked whether Johnny ate some of the cookies when the empty plate is clearly visible to everyone, the speaker may say Johnny did not eat some of the cookies without feeling the need to provide any verbal clue to the intended interpretation. Conversely, justification is often expected for regular negations like That is not a violin, as when the audience is skeptical of the speaker’s ability to recognize musical instruments.

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