In This Article Negation

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • General Monographs
  • General Works on Theory and Description: Collections
  • Typological Studies of Sentence Negation
  • Affixal Negation: Typological and Descriptive Studies
  • Diachrony: General and Cross-Linguistic Studies
  • Diachrony and Variation
  • Semantics: Logic, Antonymy, Contradiction
  • Formal Properties: Syntax and Semantics
  • Descriptions of Individual Languages
  • Neg-Raising
  • Negative Indefinites
  • Negative Concord
  • Double Negation: Cancellation and Pleonasm
  • Negative Polarity: Scalarity and Downward Entailment
  • Negative Polarity: Alternative Approaches
  • Metalinguistic Negation
  • Psycholinguistics: Acquisition
  • Psycholinguistics: Processing
  • Pragmatic and Sociolinguistic Dimensions

Linguistics Negation
Laurence Horn
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0032


Absent from otherwise complex systems of animal communication, negation is a sine qua non of every human language, allowing for the uniquely human capacities of denial, contradiction, misrepresentation, lying, and irony. The apparently simplex nature of logical negation as a one-place, two-valued operator toggling truth and falsity belies the profoundly complex and subtle expression of sentential and constituent negation in natural language, manifested by negative adverbs, verbs, copulas, quantifiers, and affixes and the interaction of negation with other operators (including iterations of negation itself). At the core of the mental faculty of language, negation interacts in significant ways with principles of morphology, syntax, logical form, compositional semantics, and processes of language acquisition and sentence processing, whence the prominent role played by work on negation in the recent development of theoretical and empirical linguistics.


The most detailed cross-referenced bibliography of work on negation is Seifert and Welte 1987. Dedicated bibliographies included in Horn and Kato 2000, Horn 2001, and Horn 2010 have extended the coverage to more recent work on negation and polarity. The list of references in the volume bibliography accompanying the first edition (1989) of Horn 2001 is also fairly comprehensive for relevant work published up to that point. None of these is a true annotated bibliography. Richter 2008 is a useful online list of references on negative polarity.

  • Horn, Laurence. 2001. A natural history of negation. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information.

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    In addition to the list of references cited in the first edition (pp. 581–615), the reissue contains a supplemental bibliography (pp. xxix–xlvii) of work on negation and negative polarity published between 1989 and 2001. Originally published in 1989 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

  • Horn, Laurence. 2010. Negation and polarity in the new millennium: A bibliography. In The expression of negation. Edited by Laurence Horn, 287–329. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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    An alphabetical listing of more than six hundred publications on negation and polarity published between 2000 and 2010.

  • Horn, Laurence, and Yasuhiko Kato, eds. 2000. Negation and polarity: Syntactic and semantic perspectives. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The further readings list (pp. 255–264) is organized by topic into three levels of subheadings. Sample section headings and subheadings are “Negation in Generative Grammar: The Early Years,” “Negative Polarity,” “The Acquisition and Processing of Negation,” and “Negation in Literature and Literary Theory.”

  • Richter, Frank, ed. 2008. The polarity items bibliography.

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    Compiled as part of a project at the University of Tübingen, this useful online bibliography of work on negative polarity from 1964 to 2007 is “biased towards publications in German, Dutch, English” (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, comment on Bibliographies of General Linguistics page). Items appear in a single alphabetical listing with links to BibTex format entries.

  • Seifert, Stephan, and Werner Welte. 1987. A basic bibliography on negation in natural language. Tübingen, Germany: G. Narr.

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    A compendium of over three hundred pages designed as “an attempt to fill a gap in the bibliographic apparatus in the specialized field of negation (p. ix).” Each entry includes abbreviatory cross-references for source, languages, theoretical or methodological approach, and “special aspects” of negation (such linguistic subfields as intonation, morphosyntax, or psycholinguistics).

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