Workshop on “Questions, Answers and Negation”

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Berry Claus, Manfred Krifka, Marlijn Meijer, Sophie Repp (“YesNo”, HU Berlin),
Bettina Braun, Maribel Romero (“BiasQ”, U Konstanz) and
Barbara Kaup, Hartmut Leuthold, Irmgard de la Vega (“MoLCINS”, U Tübingen)

Time and Venue:
20-22 January 2016, Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS Berlin), Trajekte-Raum

Invited speakers:
Mante Nieuwland (The University of Edinburgh), Pilar Prieto (Icrea/Pompeu Fabra), Floris Roelofsen (University of Amsterdam)

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Time Event
14:00-14:30 Welcome & Introduction
14:30-15:30 Floris Roelofsen (Universiteit Amsterdam)
Highlighting in discourse and grammar (slides)
15:30-15:50 COFFEE BREAK
15:50-16:35 Beste Kamali (Universität Bielefeld)
Implicit negation in Turkish yes/no questions (abstract)
16:35-16:50 COFFEE BREAK
16:50-17:35 Karoliina Lohiniva (Université de Genève)
Expletive and covert negation in Finnish YNQs: evidence from object case-marking and PIs (abstract) (slides)
17:35-18:20 Anamaria Falaus (CNRS Nantes) and Andreea Cristina Nicolae (ZAS, Berlin)
N-words in fragment answers (abstract)

Thursday 21 January 2016

Time Event
9:30-10:15 Berry Claus, A. Marlijn Meijer, Sophie Repp & Manfred Krifka (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, YesNo team)
Particle responses to negative assertions and questions: Two groups of speakers for the German response particles ja and nein. (slides)
10:15-11:00 Osita Gerald Nwagbo (University of Lagos)
Negative polar questions in Igbo (abstract)
11:00-11:20 COFFEE BREAK
11:20-12:20 Pilar Prieto (Icrea/Pompeu Fabra)
Intonation (and gesture) as encoders of semantic operations (slides)
12:20-13:05 Anja Arnhold, Bettina Braun, Filippo Domaneschi & Maribel Romero (Universität Konstanz, BiasQ team)
Syntax and prosody of negative polar questions (slides)
13:05-14:30 LUNCH BREAK
14:30-15:15 Reima Sado Al-Jarf (King Saud University, Riyadh)
Ambiguity in Arabic negative polar questions (abstract)
15:15-16:00 Hermann Keupdjio & Martina Wiltschko (University of British Columbia)
Two strategies for deriving negatively biased questions in Bamileke Medumba (abstract)
16:00-16:20 COFFEE BREAK
16:20-17:05 Hans van de Koot (University College London), Harris Constantinou (Leeds University) and Yan Zhang (University College London)
Epistemic bias in embedded outside negation polar questions (slides) (slides)
17:05-17:50 Hans-Martin Gärtner and Beáta Gyuris (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
On delimiting the space of bias profiles for polar interrogatives (abstract)
18:30 Dinner at Tapas y mas

Friday 22 January 2016

Time Event
10:00-11:00 Mante Nieuwland (The University of Edinburgh)
Negation and real-time language comprehension: Insights from electrophysiology
11:00 – 11:20 COFFEE BREAK
11:20-12:05 Ye Tian (Université Paris Diderot) and Richard Breheny (University College London)
Representing polar questions and inferring states of inquiry (abstract) (slides)
12:05-12:50 Aydogan Yanilmaz & John E. Drury (Stony Brook University)
The costs and benefits of processing negation in NPI licensing contexts in Turkish (abstract)
12:50-14:15 LUNCH BREAK
14:15-15:00 Irmgard de la Vega, Ian Mackenzie, Hartmut Leuthold & Barbara Kaup (Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, MoLCINS team)
Does negation modulate effects of plausibility during reading?
15:00-15:15 COFFEE BREAK
15:15-16:00 Maria Spychalska, Viviana Haase, Jarmo Kontinen & Markus Werning (Ruhr University Bochum)
Processing affirmation and negation in contexts with unique or multiple alternatives (abstract)
16:00-16:45 Emily Darley, Chris Kent & Nina Kazanina (University of Bristol)
Contextual predictability facilitates processing of negation – or, does it facilitate a strategy for making anti-predictions? (abstract) (slides)

The presence of negation in an utterance can have interpretative effects for which it has been surprisingly hard to make precise empirical generalizations. Prominent contexts where this happens are negative polar questions and dialogues where a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is used as a reply to a negative question or a negative assertion. In polar questions, the presence of a negation may signal that the speaker’s expectation with respect to the state-of-affairs asked about is biased towards a positive or a negative answer. The particular bias is assumed to depend inter alia on the syntactic position of the negative marker, the prosody of the question and the context, but the empirical generalizations are still controversial. In dialogues, the use of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ has been claimed to be ambiguous if uttered as a reply to a negative question or assertion. There are indications for subtle preferences, which depend on the syntax, the prosody and the context – and which are largely unexplored.
Theoretical analyses of the meaning of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses are (a) semantic-pragmatic accounts where the particles are analysed in terms of anaphoricity, e.g. with positive or negative propositions serving as anaphors, or (b) syntactic accounts, where the particles are assumed to be remnants in an otherwise elided clause. Analyses of polar question bias (a) assign a special pragmatic status to the proposition in the sentence radical of the question, (b) derive the bias from the interaction of negation and a VERUM operator scoping over the positive proposition, or (c) explain the observed data patterns in terms of speech acts and negation operating on the sentence radical. Thus in the semantic-pragmatic accounts of both types of phenomena, an important role is assigned to the positive proposition that the negation scopes over.
The positive proposition also has been claimed to play an important role during the processing of negative declarative sentences, which lead to increased processing costs in comparison to positive declarative sentences. Negative sentences are thought to effect two mental simulations in the mental representation of discourses: one for the expected states-of-affairs, which is denoted by the (positive) proposition without the negation operator, and one for the actual states-of-affairs. However, again several issues are still unresolved, for instance (1) whether comprehenders indeed routinely represent the expected states-of-affairs during comprehension or whether there are certain conditions under which comprehenders directly represent the actual state of affairs, and (2) whether – and if so at what point in the comprehension process – comprehenders evaluate the expected state of affairs against their general world knowledge and its fit with the linguistic and extra-linguistic utterance context.
The present workshop aims at gaining a better understanding of the role of negation in questions and in assertions from an empirical, a theoretical-linguistic and a processing point-of-view. Its goal is to bring together research on the influence of syntactic, prosodic and contextual factors on question bias, on response strategies and on the processing of negative sentences. We particularly welcome contributions that combine quantitative empirical research with rigorous theoretical analyses.
Concretely, we would like to address the following research questions:

  • How do different bias sources (original speaker belief vs. new evidence in context) affect the syntactic form (e.g. presence/absence of negation, its location, particles) of a polar question? How does intonation interact with that syntactic form to convey the special pragmatic effects? How do bias and surface form (syntax and phonology) of a question affect the choice of response particle? What is the range of cross-linguistic variation?
  • Do comprehenders always represent the expected state-of-affairs when processing negative sentences or do they sometimes represent the actual states-of affairs directly? At what point in the comprehension process do comprehenders evaluate the expected state of affairs against their general world knowledge and its fit with the linguistic and extra-linguistic utterance context? If so, what are the relevant conditions? Are there conditions that relate to the surface form of negative sentences, to contextual biases? How are different kinds of polar questions processed and interpreted?
  • What licenses polarity sensitive items (e.g. negative polarity items) in some interrogative environments but not in others? Under which conditions do they have an impact on their pragmatic interpretation (bias, rhetoricity)? Do polarity sensitive items in the question affect the shape of the selected response / the choice of response particle? Do they influence the processing of negative sentences in a specific way?