Negation and the creation of implicit meaning in poetry

Nahajec, Lisa (2009) Negation and the creation of implicit meaning in poetry. Language and Literature, 18 (2). pp. 109-127. ISSN 0963-9470

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Creating meaning through the use of negation is a cooperative process between speaker and hearer or writer and reader; at surface level, negation acts as an instruction that a proposition should be understood as an unrealized state, event or existence. However, this unrealized state of affairs appears to add no positive information to an ongoing discourse, and approaches based on an analysis of formal semantics and predicate logic are limited in their ability to account for how negated propositions are meaningful in discourse. A reader must infer the intended relevant meaning of a negated proposition based on the assumption that it functions explicitly to deny its opposite, positive counterpart. Further, in order to understand a negated proposition we must be able to conceptualize the positive proposition that is being denied, and this concept, though understood as an unrealized state of affairs, adds to the ongoing discourse both as a concept and as an expectation. A cognitive approach to the analysis of negation in natural language provides the tools to examine how readers and writers cooperate to make meaning. In this article, I use a cognitive stylistic approach, Text World Theory (Werth, 1999), as a framework in my analysis of a small selection of poems, 'The Tyre' (Simon Armitage), 'The Listeners' (Walter de la Mare) and 'Talking in Bed' (Philip Larkin) to explore how negation, as a pragmatic phenomenon, creates unrealized worlds, which far from being discarded are integral to the construction of meaning and effect.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: antonymy, Simon Armitage, cognitive stylistics, Walter de la Mare, Philip Larkin, negation poetry pragmatics, Text World Theory
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > English
Depositing User: Susan Murray
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2014 09:50
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2014 09:50

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