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La Négation

 | 
Stéphanie Bonnefille
, 
Sébastien Salbayre

Linguistique : négation, stratégies discursives et processus mentaux

Negation, reification and manipulation in a cognitive grammar of substance

Jean-Rémi Lapaire

Résumé

The syntax and semantics of negation are crucially linked to socio-physical and cognitive experience. There is a phenomenology of negation that relates negative concepts and expressions to the body and the senses, via “ceptual narratives” blending conception with motion and perception

Texte intégral

“Negation in language goes considerably beyond logic.” (Givón 2001: 370)

INTRODUCTION

  • 1 Labels, categories and examples are summarized by Givón in Syntax (2001: 393-96).

1This article examines the body-and substance-based models that structure our cultural understanding of negation and its linguistic expression. Outside cognitive grammar and grammaticalization theory, few language scholars care to inquire into the conceptualizing mechanisms underlying word-formation, grammatical coding and syntactic arrangement. Mainstream accounts focus on the existence of “negative types” subcategorized into “morphological negatives” (e. g. unwelcome), “syntactic negatives” (e. g. She isn't welcome) and “inherent negatives” (e. g. refuse, object).1

  • 2 E. g. “A negation is a proposition that is the denial of another proposition and is true only if th (...)
  • 3 Etymologically related to Latin stare “to stand”.
  • 4 Related to Latin serere “to join”.
  • 5 Related to Latinferre “to bear”, “to carry”.
  • 6 Typically hands/arms, eyes and feet/legs.
  • 7 Ception and the corresponding adjective ceptual refer to Talmy's “model cognitive organization” whi (...)
  • 8 Latin pro- “before” + ponere “to place”.
  • 9 Latin con + siderare, literally “to observe the stars”.
  • 10 Latin examinare “to weigh”.
  • 11 Related to Latin capere “to take”.
  • 12 Related to Latin jacere “to hurl”.
  • 13 Latin ob- “against” + ponere “to place”.
  • 14 Latin affirmare, from ad- “to” + firmare “to make firm”.

2Typological descriptions of negation are undeniably useful but “language is not mathematics” (Jespersen 1924: 331) and the principles that govern negation cannot be reduced to the axioms or formal rules of logic.2 Subjectivity is very much part of negation, as evidenced by negative terms and idioms, which are intrinsically attitudinal and generally loaded with affect (e. g. wrong, false, objectionable). Moreover, the use of negative words and constructions is governed by highly complex socio-pragmatic codes dependent on a variety of factors, such as the cultural and situational context, the status and gender of speakers, the distribution of power (Tolmach-Lakoff 1990), the adoption of specific discourse strategies such as hedging, politeness (Holmes 1995) and indirectness. More importantly still, negation has a bodily dimension that is clearly manifested in the non-verbal signals that accompany negative statements, as well as in the vocabulary commonly used to describe statements3 and modal judgments. Positive, negative or emphatic assertion4, positive or negative inference5 are etymologically related to body parts6 and bodily motion. The historical connection is certainly not random and, one would assume, the original cognitive mechanisms are still with us today. For language seems to impose a ceptual format7 on assertion. Propositions are construed as mental objects that are metaphorically “placed before”8 addressees for them to consider9/examine.10 Statements are held to be true or false, and may accordingly be accepted11 or rejected.12 Strength of assertion is force-dynamically realized as weak or strong. Opposition is routinely conceptualized as a barrier “placed against”13 unacceptable views or statements. Affirmation itself is based on the ceptual notion of firmness.14

  • 15 “Consistent : constituted so that the propositions deduced from different axioms of the system do n (...)

3Little else is needed to bolster the claim that assertion is not a logical but a phenomenological construct linked to perceptual experience. Were it not so, the rich evidential systems linking degrees of certainty to the kinds of sensory modalities involved in the gathering of information (e. g. hearing, seeing, touching) would simply not be found in so many languages. And the small gesture performances that can be used to define abstract epistemic concepts (Lapaire 2004c), such as consistency and inconsistency (from Latin consistere “to stand firm”), would be of no heuristic value whatsoever. The abstruse logical definitions15 that fail to “make sense” to ordinary minds would not be replaceable by powerful manual-haptic analogs. The mere possibility of manually representing an object of conception standing firm in space, in order to make the meaning of the word consistent “clear to everyone,” would simply sound preposterous, when it isn't: “There! The argument stands!”

  • 16 We propose to name mental-material entities MME's.

4If manual analogs of reasoning and assertion operate so successfully, it is because ideas, opinions, statements, etc. are fundamentally cognized as material constructs, structures of understanding, mental-material entities16 that can be touched, grasped and manipulated. Opinions and hypotheses are formed, interpretations made, intellectual judgments produced. Assertiveness is construed as firmness, reliability as solidity and stability. Acceptance (Latin capere “to take”) is cognized as mental and physical contact with the entity, while disagreement is conceived in terms of disconnectedness, with rejection and opposition as favored means of achieving or maintaining disconnection.

1. CONSTRUING NEGATION

  • 17 Fauconnier & Turner (2002) use the phrase “vital relations” to refer to primary cognitive processes

5Cognitive Grammar explores the link between symbolic structure and conceptual structure (Langacker 2000). One of the central tenets of C. G. is that grams are meaningful and encode conceptualizations that may be characterized relative to general knowledge systems (Langacker 1991). More generally, C. G. assumes that linguistic structure is motivated, connective and integrative, i. e. neither arbitrary nor modular. The inner organization and interpersonal uses of language are tied to general bodily organization, perceptual and motor experience, socio-cultural frames, and “vital”17 cognitive mechanisms (e. g. association, projection, compression, blending, scanning, profiling, grounding).

6Thus, the established lexical and grammatical patterns found in negative expressions can be treated as revealers of conceptualizations. So can the terms used to denote negative stances or negative speech acts, like object, reject, deny, contradict, etc. Interestingly, many of these terms are etymologically related to the perceptual-motor system and metonymically profile body-parts, with varying degree of cognitive salience and explicitness:

  • 18 Object, from Latin obicere, from ob- “against” + jacere “to throw” - Reject, from Latin reicere “to (...)
  • 19 Deny, from Old French denier, from Latin denegare, from Latin negare, from neg-, variant of nec “no (...)

Body action or experience
and related BODY-PART

Lexical expressions coding
NEGATIVE STANCES/ACTS OF SPEECH

Manual activity: taking, holding, throwing, hurling, giving...18

HANDS/ARMS

to object (lit. “to throw against”)
to reject, refuse, rebut
(lit. “to thrust, throw back”)
to oppose (lit. “to place against”)

Speech: saying, telling...19

MOUTH/TONGUE

to deny, negate (lit. “to say no”)
to disclaim
to contradict
(lit. “to speak against”)

T1: Terms for negative assertion and related body parts/actions

7The examples contained in Table 1 attest to the importance of manual activity and haptic modalities in the expression and conceptualization of negation. If symbolic structure is indeed to be trusted as the faithful indicator of construal, then the conceptual organization of negation is, to a large extent, structured by tactile experience. All the more so, as similar ceptual integration networks exist which link our conceptions of assertion with our bodily perceptions (and actions):

Body action or experience

and related BODY-PART

Lexical expressions coding

ACCEPTANCE

or/emphatic

Manual activity: taking, holding,

throwing, hurling, giving...

To accept (Cf. Lat. capere “to take”)

To admit (Cf. Lat. mittere “to send”)

To affirm, to confirm (Lat. firmus

“firm”)

HANDS/ARMS

To assert (Lat. serere “to join”)

To hold (something to be true)

To (up)hold, to maintain (Lat. manu

tenere “to hold in hand”)

Speech: saying, telling...

MOUTH/TONGUE

To say, to tell

to claim (Cf. Lat. clamare “to shout”)

Cognition: knowing, thinking,

believing, computing...

HEAD / BRAIN / MIND

To acknowledge,

To recognize

(Cf. Lat. re- + cognoscere “to know”)

T2: Terras for acceptance or positive assertion and related body parts/actions

  • 20 Cf. propositions, related to Latinponere “to place”.
  • 21 Cf. assertion, related to Latin serere “to join”.

8Unsurprisingly, degrees of assertiveness are typically conceptualized in force-dynamic and manual-haptic terms. Strength of assertion, strong or weak claims, firm statements all evoke manual scenes in which HANDS are used to hammer home some essential truth or press one's claims on listeners. More generally, manual force is applied to some reified object of belief so as to fix it into the “ground” of reality. Even the formal language of logic is related to primary manual-haptic scripts involving the placement20 and tying together21 of reified notions, set within the mental-physical space of reality.

  • 22 From Old French main tenir “to hold in the hand”.

9The manual-haptic scripts for positive and negative assertion shown in Tables 1 and 2 are hybrid ceptual blends (Lapaire 2004b). They integrate speech acts and modal stances (e. g. claiming, declaring, asserting, positing, etc.) with percepts (e. g. firmness) and motions (e. g. taking, holding, throwing). The ceptual integration is performed by language, which acts as the blending medium. It is through language that incongruous ceptual scenes are allowed to take place, in which misconceptions can be rejected, i. e. “thrown,” “flung,” or “hurled” back. It is also through the reifying properties of nominalization that truth or information content can so easily be treated as substance. Once conceptual reification has taken place, objects of belief, objects of thought, objects of conceptions can undergo a variety of blended mental and physical manipulations. Claims can be made or maintained22, proposals put forward to be accepted or rejected, etc.

10The basic manual-haptic analogs of positive and negative assertion can be framed and tabled in the following way:

POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE ACT OF

SPEECH

MANUAL-HAPTIC ANALOGS

EXPRESSED AS SCRIPTS

Suggesting

Giving, offering

Implying

Placing, locating in ceptual space

(= perceptual-conceptual region)

Agreeing, accepting

Taking, holding

Disagreeing

Removing (the unwanted or

irrelevant item) by rejection or

destruction

Unwanted or irrelevant views

(= errors, mistakes, falsehoods,

nonsense)

Garbage / refuse, reject

T3: Ceptual scripts for positive and negative assertion

11Since C. G. posits that “lexicon, morphology, and syntax form a continuum of symbolic units” (Langacker 1991: 1), it may be wondered whether the conceptual organization detected in the lexical expressions studied above is in any way relevant to “syntactic negation.” Otherwise stated, is the grammar of negation ruled by the same ceptual mechanisms as those found in negative words and idioms?

2. THE GRAMMAR OF NEGATION: GRAMS, CONSTRUCTIONS AND INTERPRETATION

  • 23 This is well summarized by Givón (2001) in his overview of logic-and philosophybased theories of ne (...)
  • 24 If we accept Palmer's definition of modality in language as “the grammaticalization of the speakers (...)
  • 25 “When one considers subjective certainty or strength of assertion (...) both negative assertion and (...)

12Formal approaches to negative assertion do not explore the phenomenological link between rational and perceptual processes and have no room for ception. What they emphasize is the truthconditional logic that governs negation. However legitimate23, logical accounts of negative assertion fail to incorporate essential cultural aspects of negation and underestimate the importance of sociopragmatic codes. As Jespersen so clearly warned, “negation in natural languages is not logical negation” (1929: 331). Linguistic negatives “cannot be compared with the sign - (minus) in mathematics” and should primarily be considered as “the expression of a feeling of resistance.” This is why modal24 and functional approaches to negation, which link negative assertion to subjective certainty25 and explore the communicative pragmatics of negative stances, are quite essential.

13It is standard practice in grammatical accounts of negation:

  1. To list negation markers, i. e. the closed set of negative and semi-negative grams, prefixes or adverbs like not, no, un-, dis-, hardly.

  2. To establish the scope of negation:

14“Special” vs. “nexal” negation (Jespersen 1929: 330), as in no comment (special) and I don't wish to comment on the decision (nexal);

15“Shielding” (Givón 2001: 380), as in She didn't see the man who stood in the corner where He stood in the corner is “shielded,” i. e. excluded from the negative scope.

  1. To explore the modal implications of negation. Negation is grammatically-encoded subjectivity since it marks the speaker's opinion, attitude, etc. towards the relevance or truth status of some event or propositioa Typically, negation expresses strong subjective certainty and rhymes with assertion (as the phrase “negative assertion” suggests).

16It is far less usual to examine the origin of “negation marking morphemes” (Givón 2001: 267-68). When this is done, the common “lexical sources” and “attested diachronic pathways” found are:

17-“Negative modality verbs” like fail, lack, refuse, decline or avoid (Givón 2001) and more generally verbs coding non-existence or “implied absence” (Heine and Kuteva 2002), which are grammaticalized as affixes, clitics, particles and auxiliaries.

  • 26 Notis variant of nought “nothing”, from O. E. nawhit, from n? “no” + wiht “creature, thing”.
    No, fro (...)

18-“Emphatic negative intensifiers” like French pas (“step”), or rien (“nothing”), which were initially added for emphasis. As pas and rien became entrenched, they gave rise to “non emphatic doublenegative constructions” (e. g. Je ne sais pas. Je ne sais rien). Eventually, the added intensifiers pas and rien became the sole negation marker (in colloquial usage): Je sais pas. Je sais rien. English exhibits a similar, although less obvious, pathway26: (simple) ne > (emphatic) ne-ought > (contracted and cliticized) nought [= nothing/creature] > (de-emphasized and reduced) not > (cliticized verb suffix) not/n't.

19Fewer grammarians still, deem it relevant to investigate the sound-symbolism involved in the formation of negative grams. Jespersen's seemingly “naive” remarks on the socio-physical motivation for using grams with an initial [n] certainly deserve renewed attention:

The starting point, here as elsewhere, is ne, which I take to be a primitive interjection of disgust consisting mainly of the facial gesture of contracting the muscles of the nose. (Jespersen 1924: 335)

20So do Jespersen's insightful remarks on the mapping of quantity onto negation and modality:

We have to consider some terms of paramount importance to the logician as well as the linguist, namely the two absolute extremes all and nothing with the intermediate something. (Jespersen 1924: 325)

21If Jespersen is right, then it is the substance and quantity-based “tripartition” between everything, all, everybody [WHOLE]/ something, some, somebody [PART]/ nothing, none, nobody [ABSENCE] that serves as a structural pattern and cognitive model for other temporal, spatial and modal categories, which are but special realizations of it:

Always, everywhere/Necessity /Must, Need Sometimes, somewhere/Possibility/Can, May Nothing, none, nobody/Impossibility/Cannot

22Assuming that substance and quantification play such a crucial role in the grammar of modality - as is likely to be the case - then the HANDS that touch, hold, grasp, push, measure and weigh must also be part of the phenomenology of modality (Lapaire 2004c). Since negative assertion is a modal concept, then the grams and syntactic patterns used in negation must also be related to sensation and bodily organization.

3. TOWARDS A PHENOMENOLOGY OF NEGATION

23The phenomenology of negation aims at linking negative concepts and expressions to the body and the senses, as well as to the most fundamental cognitive process of all: reification.

3.1. Negation and reification

24Reification- from Latin res “thing” - is “the backbone of cognition” (Lapaire 2004a). It consists of “mapping the central properties of material objects - substance, shape, mass or weight - onto selected objects of experience: emotions - or things felt; statements - or things said; events - or things done” (452).

25Language is both the prime revealer and main instrument of reification. In English, thing, stuff or matter are obvious converters of meanings and events into physical entities and may accordingly be called “reifiers.” As the traditional label substantive suggests and as Langacker himself has convincingly argued (2000: 23), all “lexical nouns effect the classification of our world into thing types” so that the overt reifying properties of thing, stuff, matter, etc. are easily extendable to the entire class of nominals. Some grams also act as reifying tools: the demonstratives this and that, the indefinite article a (n), the quantifiers some, little and much, etc.

26As suggested above, reifers are first and foremost converters:

27- they convert events into objects of experience that can be singled out, pointed to and quantitatively assessed;

  • 27 From Latin apprehendere “to lay hold of”, [HANDS]

28- they convert meanings, notions and propositions into objects of conception that can be grasped, handled or apprehended27.

29Once the conversion has taken place, manual-haptic models for reality, consistency and truthfulness may be established (Lapaire 2004b). In English, common haptic analogs of “real” or “true” include hard, solid, tangible, substantive, as in hard or solid facts, tangible evidence, allegations without substance, etc.

30In the epistemic domain, interpretive structures are reified as mental constructs - or creations of the mind — shaped, assembled, erected, etc. by cognizers. Opinions may be formed and held, judgments or statements made, theories built. The manual-haptic model applies to:

31- the creation of structures of interpretation

32- the social and intellectual debate that surrounds the assertion of propositions by the speakers-cognizers.

  • 28 From Latin stare “to stand”. [FEET]
  • 29 From Latin consistere means “to stand firm,” from sistere “to stand, cause to stand,”
  • 30 related to stare “to stand”. [FEET] From Latin ferre “to bear, to carry”. [HANDS]
  • 31 From Latin tenere “to hold”, [HANDS]
  • 32 From Latin capere “to take”. [HANDS]
  • 33 From Latin manu tenere “to hold in the hand”. [HANDS]

33Consistent statements28 metaphorically stand29 (to reason). Correct inferences30 must withstand attack, i. e. resist the unsettling or disintegrating forces of contradiction. Untenable31 arguments cannot be upheld, accepted32 or maintained33. They are dropped, rejected or merely collapse (fall apart). As the phrases suggest, the manualhaptic construal of acceptance vs. rejection, consistency vs. inconsistency, etc. rests on a small set of image-schemata (Johnson 1987): the BALANCE-schema, the FORCE schema, the SUBSTANCE schema, the PART-WHOLE schema and the BROKEN INTEGRITYschema (Lapaire 2004a). And, as might have been expected, the model has HANDS as its salient body-part, followed by FEET/LEGS.

3. 2. Negation, narrative and the “epistemic workshop”

34The interpretative process described in 2. is narratively and metaphorically construed as a creative endeavour: cognizers use their minds as HANDS to form opinions and impressions, make or produce interpretations in what might be called the epistemic workshop (Lapaire 2004c). The general mapping, expressed in terms reminiscent of Lakoff & Johnson (1999), is the following:

35-Interpretative structure as Construction of Artifact

36-Mental activity As Manual Work

37-Mental Skill As Manual Skill

38-Reasoning As Forming, Shaping, Assembling or Building

39-Inference As Mental Reconstruction

40-Consistency As Solidity and Balance

41-Inconsistent As Untenable or Unsettled/Unbalanced

42-Agreement As Physical Contact

43Three basic body action stories are parabolically projected onto the target story of negation:

  • The story of physical destruction or disintegration, with a number of variations: destroying, demolishing, tearing down, breaking up, crushing, falling apart, etc.

  • The story of physical rejection with a number of subplots: discarding, dismissing, dispelling, dismissing, brushing aside, etc.

  • he story of opposition, with (static) obstruction and (force-dynamic) resistance as its main realizations.

44The first story results in the elimination of false or irrelevant conceptions.

  • 34 Literally “to send away”, from Latin dimittere, (di-+ mittere “send”).

45The second story features the removal (34 or dismissal) of the object of conception, away from the speaker, with direct physical contact (i. e. touching or handling) operating as the manual-haptic analog of acceptance, and physical disconnection (i. e. throwing or hurling back) functioning as the manual-haptic analog of refusal. Unacceptable is here equated with untenable (literally “that which cannot be held”).

46The third story prevents wrong views, controversial decisions, etc. from becoming established, with pressing and fixing operating as the manual-haptic analogs of implanting ideas firmly in people's minds or anchoring facts, ideas, events, conceptions, etc. in reality.

47The analysis may be refined by combining Turner's theory of parabolic projection (1996) with Talmy's ception framework (2000) and Fauconnier and Turner's theory of conceptual integration (2002) to yield the following model:

T4: Ceptual integration network for negation

3. 3. Cognitive properties of the manual-haptic model

48As shown in Figure 1, the manual-haptic model functions as a ceptual integration network - or ceptual blend (Lapaire 2004b) - that achieves the powerful compression and simplification of the established socio-cognitive scripts for negation. The subtle logic and pragmatics of denial and refusal, opposition and contradiction are framed as simple body action stories: destroying, repelling or discarding something. The ceptual blend also promotes the semiotic standardization of subjectivity, since the manual-haptic scripts for negation are enshrined in lexical usage and shared by all members of the speech community. In English, the destruction and rejection scripts have a communal dimension that fosters what Donald (2001) calls “corporate thinking” - the ability for members of a given culture to operate “cognitive networks” by using the shared conceptual resources of language. Finally, the manual-haptic scripts assign “subliminal cognitive roles” (Lapaire 2004b) to contradictors who are featured as casters of doubt, dispellers of illusions, destroyers of certainties.

4. NEGATION AND GESTURE: BROADENING THE PERSPECTIVE

49Construing negation as the destruction or rejection of false or irrelevant conceptions confirms that some form of “narrative imagining” (Johnson 1993) is at work in lexis and grammar. Not only is Turner (1996) proven right in his controversial claim that language is the “child” of the “literary” - rather than mathematical - mind (168), but grammar appears to be embodied and imaginative to a degree far greater than one might have initially suspected (Lapaire 2002). Grammar has a strong phenomenological basis and a tight poetic structure, which are very much part of its multidimensionality. This is why further exploration of some of the less frequently cited semiotic dimensions of negative assertion - perceptual, postural, gestural - can only contribute to a richer understanding of the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of negation.

4.1. Kinological dimension of negation

  • 35 “Kinesics is articulation of the body, or movements resulting from muscular and skeletal shift. Thi (...)
  • 36 “Paralanguage (...) includes all noises and sounds which are extra-speech sounds, such as hissing, (...)
  • 37 How is kinesic stress realized? How is reinforcement conveyed through special lid activity, mouth o (...)

50Speakers are movers and their body motion behaviour may code meaning, affect as well as construal. Since kinesic activity necessarily accompanies vocal activity, one would expect grammar systems to be studied with consistent reference to kinesic systems. Yet the prevalence of written over oral corpora, the evasive mechanisms, complex classifications and cryptic notational conventions of kinesics35 have prevented the vast majority of grammarians from incorporating kinesic and paralanguistic36 factors into their descriptions. Ideally, a kinological analysis of the movements that regularly occur in association with negative meanings and structures should be performed as the syntax and semantics of negation are discussed. Such an integrated approach of negation would require categorizing negative concepts; identifying the body motion areas involved in negation; drawing a catalogue of the kinemic units - or kinemes (Birdwhistell 1970) - typically associated with negative stances (e. g. lateral head sweeps, head rotation from side to side, lowered brow, compressed nostrils, retracted lips); analyzing the bodily performance of “emphatic” negation in the kinesic stress system37; measuring individual variation and the impact of topic and context on kinematic performance ·, distinguishing between the various types of kinesic acts (depictive, reinforcing, embellishing, incidental) and kinesic markers (iconic, metonymic, metaphoric) among the posture, gesture, facial expressions and other body movements that accompany negative statements.

4. 2. Negation and gesture in sign language

  • 38 Manual signals may however combine with nonmanual signs: “A small percentage of simple signs are co (...)
  • 39 BSL “British Sign Language”; ASL “American Sign Language”; LFS “Langue Française des Sourds”.

51The body movements of sign language “are produced by actions of the hands, arms, torso, face and head” (Liddell 2003: 1). Most of the signals used are manual signals38 conventionally located in specific areas of the signer's gesture space (McNeill 1992: 378). Thus “many signs which label emotional processes are located on the trunk (FEEL, ANGRY, INTEREST) While many signs related to cognitive processes are located on the temple (THINK, KNOW, UNDERSTAND)” (Kyle & Woll 1985: 114-15). The signs typically enact or present the referent. For instance, the sign used to code SMOKE (a cigarette) in BSL39 “represents holding a cigarette in the fingers and moving it to and from the mouth,” while the sign HOT “represents wiping a sweaty brow” (Kyle & Woll 1985: 114). Although many of these signs “have their origins in visual symbolism” and metonymically represent “some feature of a referent, either in terms of visual properties or actions,” many other signs “appear to be as arbitrary as many words of spoken language” (Kyle & Woll 1985 : 113-130).

  • 40 ASL: NO: right thumb, index and middle fingers are brought together; NONE: both Ο hands are held in (...)
  • 41 ASL. REJECT: the little-finger edge of the right flat hand is brushed over and beyond the hand and (...)

52The kinaesthetic structure of sign language offers precious visual access to the hidden conceptualizing mechanisms of the human mind. Negation provides a case in point. Just as verbal language displays a variety of negative grams and privative lexical affixes, so does sign language use a variety of signs to encode negation and cognate notions such as objection, rejection and privation. Interestingly, the negative markers of BSL and ASL are not in a one-to-one correspondence with those of English. Thus NOT in NOT YET, NOT A BIG DEAL, he DIDN'T look impressed is signed in a variety of ways (Liddell 2003: 13, 256, 332), some of which quite removed from the central NO, NONE and NOT signs.40 And although both signs for the negative verbs REJECT and REFUSE involve some “pushing aside/away,” the motions performed look quite dissimilar.41

  • 42 Surprisingly, little space is devoted to negation in the specialized literature devoted to ASL and (...)

53How is negation encoded in the grammar of BSL and ASL? What kind of visual symbolism - iconic, metaphoric, metonymic - does apply to negative concepts42? How are the deontic vs. epistemic, simple vs. emphatic distinctions marked? What are the dominant hand shapes (bent, clawed, curved, flat, closed, open) in negation? Which parts of the overall signing area are salient? Much remains to be learnt from the symbolic organization of negation in sign language.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

54Negation cannot be reduced to a purely formal system of rules and symbols, a collection of logical principles tied to algebraic constructional schemas, removed from ordinary socio-physical and cognitive experience. As shown in the present study, reification, touch and manipulation are particularly relevant to a phenomenological grammar of negation. The manual and tactile scripts for objection, rejection, denial, etc. discussed in this paper are part of a broader cognitive grammar of matter and gesture that shapes essential aspects of linguistic structure.

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Notes

1 Labels, categories and examples are summarized by Givón in Syntax (2001: 393-96).

2 E. g. “A negation is a proposition that is the denial of another proposition and is true only if the original proposition is false.” (Collins English Dictionary)

3 Etymologically related to Latin stare “to stand”.

4 Related to Latin serere “to join”.

5 Related to Latinferre “to bear”, “to carry”.

6 Typically hands/arms, eyes and feet/legs.

7 Ception and the corresponding adjective ceptual refer to Talmy's “model cognitive organization” which is meant to overcome the common per-ception/con ception gap: “We adopt the notion of ception to cover all the cognitive phenomena, conscious or unconscious, understood by conjunction of perception and conception” (Talmy 2000: 139).

8 Latin pro- “before” + ponere “to place”.

9 Latin con + siderare, literally “to observe the stars”.

10 Latin examinare “to weigh”.

11 Related to Latin capere “to take”.

12 Related to Latin jacere “to hurl”.

13 Latin ob- “against” + ponere “to place”.

14 Latin affirmare, from ad- “to” + firmare “to make firm”.

15 “Consistent : constituted so that the propositions deduced from different axioms of the system do not contradict each other “(Collins English Dictionary).

16 We propose to name mental-material entities MME's.

17 Fauconnier & Turner (2002) use the phrase “vital relations” to refer to primary cognitive processes.

18 Object, from Latin obicere, from ob- “against” + jacere “to throw” - Reject, from Latin reicere “to throw back”, from re-+ jacere “to hurl” - Refuse, from French refuser, from Latin refundere “to spill again”, “to pour back”, “to reject”, “to give back” - Rebut, from Old French reboter, from re-+ boter “to thrust” -Oppose, from Latin opponere, from ob- “against” + ponere “to place”.

19 Deny, from Old French denier, from Latin denegare, from Latin negare, from neg-, variant of nec “not” + aio “I say” - Negate, from Latin negare, from neg-, variant of nec “not” + aio I say - Disclaim, related to clamare “to shout” - Contradict, from Latin contradicere, from contra- “against” + dicere “to speak”, “to say”.

20 Cf. propositions, related to Latinponere “to place”.

21 Cf. assertion, related to Latin serere “to join”.

22 From Old French main tenir “to hold in the hand”.

23 This is well summarized by Givón (2001) in his overview of logic-and philosophybased theories of negation:
“Philosophers have traditionally considered negation only in terms of its truth value, that is as a logical operator that merely reverses the truth-value of a proposition. This may be captured in the strict rules of logic:
a. NEG (NEG-P) =
Ρ
b. If
Ρ is true, then not-P is not true (and vice versa)
The logical properties of negation are indeed reflected in language, but only up to a point, since negation in language goes considerably beyond logic.” (Givón 2001: 369-70).

24 If we accept Palmer's definition of modality in language as “the grammaticalization of the speakers'(subjective) attitudes and opinions” (1986: 16), then the study of negation is inseparable from the study of modality and subjectivity.

25 “When one considers subjective certainty or strength of assertion (...) both negative assertion and realis-assertion tum out to be equally strong assertions, i. e. used in psychological context of high certainty and high evidential support. They thus contrast with both presupposition, where a proposition is not asserted but rather taken for granted, and irrealis-assertion, where a proposition is only weakly asserted.” (Givôn 2001:370)

26 Notis variant of nought “nothing”, from O. E. nawhit, from n? “no” + wiht “creature, thing”.
No, from O. E. n?, from ne “not” + ? “ever”.

27 From Latin apprehendere “to lay hold of”, [HANDS]

28 From Latin stare “to stand”. [FEET]

29 From Latin consistere means “to stand firm,” from sistere “to stand, cause to stand,”

30 related to stare “to stand”. [FEET] From Latin ferre “to bear, to carry”. [HANDS]

31 From Latin tenere “to hold”, [HANDS]

32 From Latin capere “to take”. [HANDS]

33 From Latin manu tenere “to hold in the hand”. [HANDS]

34 Literally “to send away”, from Latin dimittere, (di-+ mittere “send”).

35 “Kinesics is articulation of the body, or movements resulting from muscular and skeletal shift. This includes all actions, physical or physiological, automatic reflexes, posture, facial expressions, gestures, and other body movements.” (Key 1975: 11). The term kinesics was first used in publication by Ray Birdwhistell (1952). Henry Lee Smith, Edward T. Hall and Gregory Bateson also made essential contributions to the kinological analysis of movement systems.

36 “Paralanguage (...) includes all noises and sounds which are extra-speech sounds, such as hissing, shushing, whistling, and imitation sounds, as well as a large variety of speech modifications, such as quality of voice (sepulchral, whiney, giggling), extra high-pitched utterances, or hesitations or speed in talking.” (Key 1975: 11). The term paralanguage was introduced to linguistics in the mid-1950's by William E. Weimers and George L. Trager.

37 How is kinesic stress realized? How is reinforcement conveyed through special lid activity, mouth or nose behaviour? What is an “emphatic” head nod or sweep, eye blink, chin or thorax thrust, leg or foot shift?

38 Manual signals may however combine with nonmanual signs: “A small percentage of simple signs are composed of more than just the activity of the hands. That is, for some signs, it is necessary not only to move the hands correctly, but also to correctly configure the face and potentially other parts of the body. (...) [Thus] to produce NOT YET correctly, the tongue protrudes slightly, resting on the lower lip while the head slowly rotates from side to side.” (Liddell 2003: 13-14)

39 BSL “British Sign Language”; ASL “American Sign Language”; LFS “Langue Française des Sourds”.

40 ASL: NO: right thumb, index and middle fingers are brought together; NONE: both Ο hands are held in front of the chest and moved from side to side in opposite directions. NOT/DO NOT: the right A thumb, with palm left, is placed under the chin then moved forward and away. Adapted from Flodin (2004).

41 ASL. REJECT: the little-finger edge of the right flat hand is brushed over and beyond the hand and fingers of the left flat hand, which is palm up. REFUSE: the right A or S hand is held in a natural position to the front, then moved sharply upward over the right shoulder while simultaneously turning the head to the left. (Flodin 2004).

42 Surprisingly, little space is devoted to negation in the specialized literature devoted to ASL and few generalizations are made. Flodin (2004) does attempt to list general principles for “signing negatives”, but the suggestions made are no more than practical simplifications intended to “help learners”.

Table des illustrations

Légende T4: Ceptual integration network for negation
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufr/docannexe/image/4853/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 177k

Auteur

Is Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at Université Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux 3. He is currently developing new poetic and phenomenological accounts of grammatical structure, based on the lexical and syntactic evidence displayed by natural languages. His contention is that grammar is adaptative, imaginative and body-based. He recently released a DVD (Grammar in Motion) demonstrating that gesture, posture and sensation may be used efficiently to conceptualize grammatical notions and constructions

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2006

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540