Publication details [#16307]

Geurts, Bart. 1998. The mechanisms of denial. Language 74 (2) : 274–307.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
The Linguistic Society of America


Normally, the negation of a sentence serves to reverse the assertion that S would have made, and does not affect other types of information S would have conveyed, such as presuppositions, implicatures, and so on. Occasionally, however, it seems as if negation is directed precisely at presuppositions, implicature, or even at purely formal aspects of a sentence (such as intonation, pronunciation, and so on). The following are cases in point: Mary didn't visit the pizzeria in the Vatican, because there is no pizzeria in the Vatican./I'm not tipsy: I'm drunk./He didn't call the POlice, he called the poLICE. I call such sentences DENIALS, and I argue against the unitarian approach advocated by Horn and van der Sandt, among others, according to which denial is a homogeneous phenomenon that calls for a unified analysis. According to the alternative theory proposed here, there are several mechanisms of denial, but each of these is needed for independent reasons, and therefore no ad hoc mechanisms are necessary.