Publication details [#16392]

Carston, Robyn. 1998. Negation, 'presupposition' and the semantics/pragmatics distinction. Journal of Linguistics 34 (2) : 309–350.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Cambridge University Press


A cognitive pragmatic approach is taken to some long-standing problem cases of negation, the so-called presupposition denial cases. It is argued that a full account of the processes and levels of representation involved in their interpretation typically requires the sequential pragmatic derivation of two different propositions expressed. The first is one in which the presupposition is preserved and, following the rejection of this, the second involves the echoic (metalinguistic) use of material falling in the scope of the negation. The semantic base for these processes is the standard anti-presuppositionalist wide-scope negation. A different view, developed by Burton-Roberts (1989a, b), takes presupposition to be a semantic relation encoded in natural language and so argues for a negation operator that does not cancel presuppositions. This view is shown to be flawed, in that it makes the false prediction that presupposition denial cases are semantic contradictions and it is based on too narrow a view of the role of pragmatic inferencing.