A recent question posed by another user observed that the following sentence is ambiguous:
(1) Arthur does not discipline his children because he loves them.
This sentence can mean either that Arthur refrains from punishing his children because he loves them or he actually does punish them, but he does so for some other reason than that he loves them (perhaps he just wants to be cruel). The two readings can be understood in terms of the scope of the negation. The first reading has the causal adjunct clause scoping over the negation (because [not]), and the scond reading has the negation scoping over the causal adjunct clause (not [because]).
My question concerns a closely related sentence that has the adjunct clause fronted:
(2) Because he loves them, Arthur does not discipline his children.
For me, the ambiguity has disappeared. The only reading in (2) is the first reading where cause scopes over negation (because [not]). I have two precise questions in this regard:
Do others agree? Does sentence (2) lack the ambiguity that is present in (1)?
If the answer is yes, then why should this be the case? Why is the negation capable of scoping forwards over the cause in (1), but incapable of scoping backwards over it in (2)?
Concerning the second question, note that negation is easily capable of scoping backwards in other cases, e.g. All that glitters is not gold -- not scopes backwards over all in this case.
Based upon the many helpful answers and comments below, I would like to give the original question a new direction. The answer to the first part of the question is apparently a strong "yes, sentence (2) is NOT ambiguous". The answer to the second part of the question remains somewhat open, although the suggestion and comments below present avenues for exploration. One of the avenues concerns the role of intonation, and another suggests a strong role for pragmatics. While I cannot discount these possibilities outright, I currently have a hypothesis I am entertaining that has not yet been disproven. This hypothesis is expressed as follows:
Hypothesis Negation can scope forwards over arguments and adjuncts, but it can scope backwards only over arguments (not over adjuncts).
The data that have appeared in the question, the answers, and the comments support this hypothesis. I have not yet encountered an example in my own explorations that contradict it. Here are the examples that appear on this page:
(2) **Because** he loves them, Arthur does **not** punish his children. (3) At **every** party, Fred did **not** dance. (4) He **definitely** did **not** do it. (5) #**Because** he loves chicken, Arthur does **not** eat.
In each of these sentences, the first bold operator is (in) an adjunct, and in each case, there is no ambiguity. The negation cannot scope backwards over the adjunct. In cases where the negation does scope backwards, it does so over an argument:
(6) **All** that glitters is **not** gold. (*all that glitters* is the subject argument) (7) He was helping **every** student at **no** time. (*every student* is the object argument)
These sentences both allow the reading in which the negation scopes backwards over the preceding operator.
The long and the short of all this is that the original question can now be redirected as follows:
- Is there any evidence suggesting that negation can ever scope backwards over an adjunct?
If the answer to this question is no, then I think it has become possible to produce a coherent and principled account of the scope of negation.