Journal of Linguistics


Negation, ‘presupposition’ and metarepresentation: a response to Noel Burton-Roberts 1

a1 Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, University College London


Metalinguistic negation (MN) is interesting for at least the following two reasons: (a) it is one instance of the much broader, very widespread and various phenomenon of metarepresentational use in linguistic communication, whose semantic and pragmatic properties are currently being extensively explored by both linguists and philosophers of language; (b) it plays a central role in recent accounts of presupposition-denial cases, such as ‘The king of France is not bald; there is no king of France’. It is this latter employment that discussion of metalinguistic negation has focused on since Horn (1985)'s key article on the subject. While Burton-Roberts (1989a, 1989b) saw the MN account of presupposition-denials as providing strong support for his semantic theory of presupposition, I have offered a multi-layered pragmatic account of these cases, which also involves MN, but maintains the view that the phenomenon of presupposition is pragmatic (Carston 1994, 1996, 1998a).

(Received November 9 1998)

c1 Author's address: Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, U.K. E-mail:


1 Many thanks to Deirdre Wilson and Eun-Ju Noh for stimulating conversations on metarepresentational use, and to Vladimir Žegarac for helpful comments on an earlier draft. I'm very grateful, once again, to Noel Burton-Roberts, for an enjoyable e-mail exchange on pineapples, sacking vs. killing and other issues relevant to this paper.