Putting context into context: sources of context and a proposed mechanism for linguistic negation


Linguistic negation is often underspecified. The eagle is not in the sky does not specify a concrete meaning. For this reason, context is crucial, and can substantially mediate the meaning of a negated sentence. A core issue in the area of sentence processing and incorporation of context, is what information constitutes context, and how is it processed in the moment. The first study demonstrates the ambiguity of certain negated sentences without sufficient context, and a mousetracking study revealed greater deviations toward a lure during affirmative sentence processing compared to negated sentence processing. This counterintuitive result is predicted by a model of referent activation and motor responses in which referents are treated independently, compared to a model where affirmative and negated referents compete with one another. These findings are presented in a framework processing context via information from stored lexical-semantic representations (memory-mediated) or concurrent perceptual information (perceptually-mediated).

Publication Title

Language, Cognition and Neuroscience