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By Sunny

On 13, Mar 2013 | In | By Sunny


We have been investigating a model-based theory of what negation means, how it is mentally represented, and how its context affects its comprehension. The theory postulates that individuals interpret negation as having the smallest feasible grammatical scope, e.g., one proposition rather than two, and that individuals do not know what negates a conjunction or other compound sentences, but have to construct these possibilities one at a time.

We have implemented the theory computationally and corroborated it experimentally. Individuals do reduce the scope of negations, and so fail to envisage all the possibilities consistent with descriptions similar to “it’s not the case that the forks, knives, and spoons are on the table”. They show a robust difference in their understanding of denials, and, as the theory also predicts, they form and understand denials of disjunctions, A or B or both, more easily than denials of conjunctions, A and B.


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