Negative raising

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The phenomenon that a negation in the matrix clause of a sentence is interpreted in negating the complement clause.

Example

The negation in the matrix clause (ia) is interpreted in negating the complement clause, which makes (ia) equivalent to (ib):

(i)	a	I don't think he'll come
	b	I think he won't come

The phenomenon owes its name to the early transformational analysis as an instance of movement (Lakoff 1970): the negation is raised out of its embedded clause to a position in the matrix clause. It is also called neg-raising. Examples of predicates that allow negative raising are believe, want, seem, suppose, likely, ought to, but not know, for instance. Negative raising has later received a pragmatic explanation. The ‘displaced’ interpretation of the negation results from a strengthening of the unlikely wide interpretation of (ia) to the more likely narrow interpretation that corresponds to (ib). See Horn (1989) for an extensive overview.

Links

Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics

References

  • Horn, Laurence R. 1989. A Natural History of Negation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago
  • Lakoff, G. 1970. Pronominalization, negation and the analysis of adverbs, in: Jacobs, R. and P. Rosenbaum (eds.) Readings in English transformational grammar, 145-165, Ginn & Co, Waltham, MA