The Processing of Negation and Polarity

Carolin Dudschig (University of Tübingen, MoLCINS), Barbara Kaup (University of Tübingen, MoLCINS), Mingya Liu (Humboldt University of Berlin, SPOCC) and Juliane Schwab (Osnabrück University)

01.-02. October 2020

ZOOM & Room 1.101, Dorotheenstraße 24, 10117 Berlin

The workshop will take place online over ZOOM as well as, partially, on site (only for travellers within Germany). Please register for the conference by Sept. 25, 2020 to with your full names, affiliations and email addresses if you are interested in attending the conference online or onsite.

Invited speakers:
David Beltran (
Richard Breheny (
Mante Nieuwland (
Sophie Repp (
Ming Xiang (
Peng Zhou (

+++ Unfortunately, Peng Zhou’s talk had to be canceled. +++

Negation and polarity have been a key field of study in generative linguistics, as the related phenomena are situated at the interfaces of syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Formal and experimental research on these interface phenomena are thus of great importance towards gaining a better understanding of the architecture of grammar. The processes underlying the comprehension of negation and polarity have been investigated in both psychology and linguistics, using a combination of behavioral (e.g. rating, eyetracking) and neuroimaging techniques (e.g. EEG). One of the central points of debate concerns the question whether negative meaning is processed immediately, or has to be computed from the affirmative content in a two-step model of negation comprehension. While out-of-the-blue negation has been associated with increased processing costs, it has been argued that pragmatic factors mitigate this cost by providing a licensing context for negative utterances. Related work concerns the processing of positive and negative polarity items (PPIs and NPIs, respectively). Major questions in the field concern the cognitive mechanisms via which the semantic and pragmatic licensing conditions are established, and potential differences between (i) licensing contexts of various negative strengths (e.g. sentential negation, downward-entailing operators, adversatives), as well as between (ii) the processing of NPIs and PPIs in general.

The workshop aims at establishing a broad perspective on the processing of negation and polarity, with a focus on (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • One- versus two-step models of language comprehension through investigations employing negative sentences
  • Experimental approaches to the semantics and pragmatics of canonical and noncanonical negation (negative concord, pleonastic negation)
  • Processing of entailment cancelling contexts (negation, modals, questions, conditionals)
  • Negative and positive polarity items
  • Experimental computational/developmental/sociolinguistic approaches to negation and polarity

Call for papers
We welcome abstracts for 30 minutes talks (20 + 10 discussion) or posters which address issues relevant to the workshop’s theme. Abstracts should be no longer than 2 A4 pages, with a 12 pt font and 2.5 cm/1 inch margins. The abstracts must be anonymous and not identify the authors. Authors may submit at most two abstracts, at most one of which may be single-authored.
It is planned to publish a special issue based on a selection of presented papers with a journal in the interface of Psychology and Linguistics.