High negation questions and epistemic bias

  • Daniel Goodhue


High negation questions—questions like “Isn’t it nice out?”—necessarily convey that the speaker is epistemically  biased, i.e., the speaker has a prior belief about the correct answer to the question. In particular,  the speaker necessarily expresses bias toward the proposition embedded under the high negation.  Low negation questions, on the other hand, do not necessarily convey this bias. Romero and Han (2004) demonstrate that this asymmetry holds in several languages, some unrelated. This remarkable crosslinguistic  fact merits explanation. In particular, what role does the structural height of negation play in triggering this epistemic bias?  In this paper, I present novel evidence demonstrating that high negation questions lack propositional negation. This evidence is taken to support Ladd’s (1981) suggestion that high negation is somehow outside of the proposition,  and is used to motivate an analysis in which high negation scopes above an epistemic operator.  I argue that this analysis of high negation enables a novel account of epistemic bias that predicts its context insensitivity.
How to Cite
Goodhue, D. (2019). High negation questions and epistemic bias. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 23(1), 469-486. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2019.v23i1.544