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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the current state of the art with regard to the contribution of prosody and gesture to the semantic and pragmatic expression and interpretation of negation. A review of the literature shows that three types of speech acts involving negation (e.g. denial, rejection, and metalinguistic negation) can be encoded through differentiated prosodic and gestural means across languages. Negative elements in denials tend to be prosodically highlighted through the use of high tones in tonal languages or pitch accentual prominence in intonational languages. By contrast, specific intonational contours are used differently across languages to express a speech act of rejection, whether in questions or in statements. Metalinguistic or corrective speech acts, which express a speaker’s attitude of disapproval, can also be identified by means of prosodic prominence. All three types of speech act tend to be accompanied by specific gestures. This chapter also shows the central role played by prosody and gesture in the interpretation of the semantic scope of negation, as well as in the interpretation of negative shifts affecting so-called double negation phenomena and bare polar particle responses. The chapter concludes by analyzing the interaction between prosodic and gestural modes of communication in adult and child speech, and suggests possible avenues for further research on the prosody–gesture negation interface.

Keywords: prosody, gesture, denial, rejection, metalinguistic negation, scope, double negation, single negation, particle responses, multimodal negation

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