This work focuses on a particular case of negative sentences, the Surprise Negation sentences (SNEGs). SNEGs belong to the class of expletive negation sentences, i.e., they are affirmative in meaning but involve a clausal negation. A clear example is offered by Italian: ‘E non mi è scesa dal treno Maria?!’ (let. ‘and not CLITIC.to_me is got off-the train Mary’ = ‘The surprise was that Maria got off the train!’). From a theoretical point of view, the interpretation of SNEGs as affirmative can be derived from their specific syntactic and semantic structure. Here we offer an implementation of the visual world paradigm to test how SNEGs are interpreted. Participants listened to affirmative, negative or expletive negative clauses while four objects (two relevant—either expected or unexpected—and two unrelated) were shown on the screen and their eye movements were recorded. Growth Curve Analysis showed that the fixation patterns to the relevant objects were very similar for affirmative and expletive negative sentences, while striking differences were observed between negative and affirmative sentences. These results showed that negation does play a different role in the mental representation of a sentence, depending on its syntactic derivation. Moreover, we also found that, compared to affirmative sentences, SNEGs require higher processing efforts due to both their syntactic complexity and pragmatic integration, with slower response time and lower accuracy.

Modulating “Surprise” with Syntax: A Study on Negative Sentences and Eye- Movement Recording

Matteo Greco
;
Paolo Canal;Valentina Bambini;Andrea Moro
2020

Abstract

This work focuses on a particular case of negative sentences, the Surprise Negation sentences (SNEGs). SNEGs belong to the class of expletive negation sentences, i.e., they are affirmative in meaning but involve a clausal negation. A clear example is offered by Italian: ‘E non mi è scesa dal treno Maria?!’ (let. ‘and not CLITIC.to_me is got off-the train Mary’ = ‘The surprise was that Maria got off the train!’). From a theoretical point of view, the interpretation of SNEGs as affirmative can be derived from their specific syntactic and semantic structure. Here we offer an implementation of the visual world paradigm to test how SNEGs are interpreted. Participants listened to affirmative, negative or expletive negative clauses while four objects (two relevant—either expected or unexpected—and two unrelated) were shown on the screen and their eye movements were recorded. Growth Curve Analysis showed that the fixation patterns to the relevant objects were very similar for affirmative and expletive negative sentences, while striking differences were observed between negative and affirmative sentences. These results showed that negation does play a different role in the mental representation of a sentence, depending on its syntactic derivation. Moreover, we also found that, compared to affirmative sentences, SNEGs require higher processing efforts due to both their syntactic complexity and pragmatic integration, with slower response time and lower accuracy.
Negation, Expletive negation, Eye movements, Surprise effect, Visual world paradigm, Syntax–Pragmatics interface
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12076/6169
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