Negative events in compositional semantics

Timothée Bernard, Lucas Champollion


Negative events have been used in analyses of various natural language phenomena such as negative perception reports and negative causation, but their conceptual and logical foundations remain ill-understood. We propose that linguistic negation denotes a function Neg, which sends any set of events P to a set Neg(P) that contains all events which preclude every event in P from being actual. An axiom ensures that any event in Neg(P) is actual if and only if no event in P is. This allows us to construe the events in Neg(P) as negative, "anti-P", events. We present a syntax-semantics interface that uses continuations to resolve scope mismatches between subject and verb phrase negation, and a fragment of English that accounts for the interaction of negation, the perception verb see, finite and nonfinite perception reports, and quantified subjects, as well as negative causation.

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