Unacceptable grammars? an eye-tracking study of English negative concord

Frances Kathleen Blanchette, Cynthia Lukyanenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper uses eye-tracking while reading to examine Standard English speakers' processing of sentences with two syntactic negations: a negative auxiliary and either a negative subject (e.g., Nothing didn't fall from the shelf) or a negative object (e.g., She didn't answer nothing in that interview). Sentences were read in Double Negation (DN; the 'she answered something' reading of she didn't answer nothing) and Negative Concord (NC; the 'she answered nothing' reading of she didn't answer nothing) biasing contexts. Despite the social stigma associated with NC, and linguistic assumptions that Standard English has a DN grammar, in which each syntactic negation necessarily contributes a semantic negation, our results show that Standard English speakers generate both NC and DN interpretations, and that their interpretation is affected by the syntactic structure of the negative sentence. Participants spent more time reading the critical sentence and rereading the context sentence when negative object sentences were paired with DN-biasing contexts and when negative subject sentences were paired with NC-biasing contexts. This suggests that, despite not producing NC, they find NC interpretations of negative object sentences easier to generate than DN interpretations. The results illustrate the utility of online measures when investigating socially stigmatized construction types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalLanguage and Cognition
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

Fingerprint

grammar
Reading
interpretation
Social Stigma
Linguistics
Semantics
semantics
Interviews
linguistics
Grammar
Negative Concord
interview
Negation
Standard English
English Speakers
Syntax

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

@article{3b14b9b16a1f40af887241eed9590140,
title = "Unacceptable grammars? an eye-tracking study of English negative concord",
abstract = "This paper uses eye-tracking while reading to examine Standard English speakers' processing of sentences with two syntactic negations: a negative auxiliary and either a negative subject (e.g., Nothing didn't fall from the shelf) or a negative object (e.g., She didn't answer nothing in that interview). Sentences were read in Double Negation (DN; the 'she answered something' reading of she didn't answer nothing) and Negative Concord (NC; the 'she answered nothing' reading of she didn't answer nothing) biasing contexts. Despite the social stigma associated with NC, and linguistic assumptions that Standard English has a DN grammar, in which each syntactic negation necessarily contributes a semantic negation, our results show that Standard English speakers generate both NC and DN interpretations, and that their interpretation is affected by the syntactic structure of the negative sentence. Participants spent more time reading the critical sentence and rereading the context sentence when negative object sentences were paired with DN-biasing contexts and when negative subject sentences were paired with NC-biasing contexts. This suggests that, despite not producing NC, they find NC interpretations of negative object sentences easier to generate than DN interpretations. The results illustrate the utility of online measures when investigating socially stigmatized construction types.",
author = "Blanchette, {Frances Kathleen} and Cynthia Lukyanenko",
year = "2019",
month = "3",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1017/langcog.2019.4",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "11",
pages = "1--40",
journal = "Language and Cognition",
issn = "1866-9808",
publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
number = "1",

}

Unacceptable grammars? an eye-tracking study of English negative concord. / Blanchette, Frances Kathleen; Lukyanenko, Cynthia.

In: Language and Cognition, Vol. 11, No. 1, 01.03.2019, p. 1-40.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Unacceptable grammars? an eye-tracking study of English negative concord

AU - Blanchette, Frances Kathleen

AU - Lukyanenko, Cynthia

PY - 2019/3/1

Y1 - 2019/3/1

N2 - This paper uses eye-tracking while reading to examine Standard English speakers' processing of sentences with two syntactic negations: a negative auxiliary and either a negative subject (e.g., Nothing didn't fall from the shelf) or a negative object (e.g., She didn't answer nothing in that interview). Sentences were read in Double Negation (DN; the 'she answered something' reading of she didn't answer nothing) and Negative Concord (NC; the 'she answered nothing' reading of she didn't answer nothing) biasing contexts. Despite the social stigma associated with NC, and linguistic assumptions that Standard English has a DN grammar, in which each syntactic negation necessarily contributes a semantic negation, our results show that Standard English speakers generate both NC and DN interpretations, and that their interpretation is affected by the syntactic structure of the negative sentence. Participants spent more time reading the critical sentence and rereading the context sentence when negative object sentences were paired with DN-biasing contexts and when negative subject sentences were paired with NC-biasing contexts. This suggests that, despite not producing NC, they find NC interpretations of negative object sentences easier to generate than DN interpretations. The results illustrate the utility of online measures when investigating socially stigmatized construction types.

AB - This paper uses eye-tracking while reading to examine Standard English speakers' processing of sentences with two syntactic negations: a negative auxiliary and either a negative subject (e.g., Nothing didn't fall from the shelf) or a negative object (e.g., She didn't answer nothing in that interview). Sentences were read in Double Negation (DN; the 'she answered something' reading of she didn't answer nothing) and Negative Concord (NC; the 'she answered nothing' reading of she didn't answer nothing) biasing contexts. Despite the social stigma associated with NC, and linguistic assumptions that Standard English has a DN grammar, in which each syntactic negation necessarily contributes a semantic negation, our results show that Standard English speakers generate both NC and DN interpretations, and that their interpretation is affected by the syntactic structure of the negative sentence. Participants spent more time reading the critical sentence and rereading the context sentence when negative object sentences were paired with DN-biasing contexts and when negative subject sentences were paired with NC-biasing contexts. This suggests that, despite not producing NC, they find NC interpretations of negative object sentences easier to generate than DN interpretations. The results illustrate the utility of online measures when investigating socially stigmatized construction types.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85062667059&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85062667059&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1017/langcog.2019.4

DO - 10.1017/langcog.2019.4

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85062667059

VL - 11

SP - 1

EP - 40

JO - Language and Cognition

JF - Language and Cognition

SN - 1866-9808

IS - 1

ER -