Intonational encoding of double negation in Catalan

M.Teresa Espinal*, Pilar Prieto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we shall explore the phenomenon of double negation (DN) in a negative concord language like Catalan from an inferential perspective. According to recent developments within the generative approach to the theory of sentential grammar, a proper account of this phenomenon requires an analysis of the lexical, syntactic, and semantic conditions involved. Yet this model only attempts to account for the phenomenon of DN if two negative operators or two strong negative quantifiers are involved within a syntactic structure. In order to investigate the syntactic and prosodic conditions that affect DN interpretation in a question-answer (Q-A) dialogue in Catalan, we conducted a set of perception experiments with Central Catalan listeners. Our study supports the hypothesis that different formal conditions in the Q and A utterances (specifically, a command negative wh- Q combined with a contradictory intonational contour in the A) affect the corresponding interpretation, and that intonation encodes procedural restrictions on the proposition expressed. Results from these perception experiments confirm that the intonation contour of the negative word ningú 'nobody' is the key factor triggering a DN interpretation. This paper aims to contribute to our current knowledge of the prosody-meaning interface in the interpretation of negative constructions within recent work on the intonational phonology of Catalan and Relevance Theory. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2392-2410
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011


  • Catalan
  • Double negation
  • Intonation
  • Procedural meaning


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