In many languages there are sentences that contain a 'non-negating' negation i.e. negation that seemingly not really negates the sentence. In this paper we analyse scalar exclamations, such as 'How many people did you not deceive in your youth'! This exclamation can be uttered in the same context as the corresponding exclamation without negation. The speaker of this exclamation is amazed about the amount of people his addressee deceived. Despite of such behaviour, we assume the negation to be truth-functional and the sentence to denote a set of negated propositions, in accordance with the semantics of Karttunen (1977). We explain the 'non-negating' effect through a reversal of the inference associated with the sentence. Positive exclamation allows downward scalar inference and as such refers to the maximum among positive instances. Negated exclamation allows upward scalar inference and as such refers to the minimum among negative instances. We show that these two kinds of reference are two sides of the same coin. That's why one can express his amazement about some state of affairs both with positive and with negated exclamation. The analysis proceeds at the borderline of pragmatics and semantics.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.