Double Negatives

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Double Negatives

#1  Postby hackenslash » Dec 19, 2011 10:39 pm

katja z wrote:
hackenslash wrote:
"I ain't got none" still conveys the same information as "I do not have any"


No it doesn't, because 'I ain't got none' contains a double negative, conveying the information that you do indeed have some (of what, who knows, but certainly not any linguistic ability).


Wrong. The difference between the two sentences is sociolinguistic - they convey different information about the speaker's social background and/or the situation of communication (its level of formality).

The double negative is the STANDARD and CORRECT way of expressing negation in many languages. It USED TO BE a standard way (not THE standard way as far as I know) in English, and in fact you can still find it in Shakespeare, where it simply expresses stronger negation than a single negative. In modern English, the double negative is outside of the norm (there are precise historical reasons for it), but it is still commonly used and understood in a number of dialects. Hack, it helps if you see languages for what they are - evolved, heterogeneous entities whose properties are explicable by their history. Using mathematical logic to explain certain things is about as helpful as trying to use a hammer to loosen a screw. Hammers are useful, but for screws you need a screwdriver.


Can you actually support this, or am I just to take your word for it?

Wiki wrote:A double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Multiple negation is the more general term referring to the occurrence of more than one negative in a clause.

In most logics and some languages, double negatives cancel one another and produce an affirmative sense; in other languages, doubled negatives intensify the negation. Languages where multiple negatives intensify each other are said to have negative concord. Portuguese, French, Persian, and Spanish are examples of negative-concord languages, while Latin and German do not have negative concord. Standard English lacks negative concord, but it was normal in Old English and Middle English, and some modern dialects do have it (e.g. African American Vernacular English and Cockney), although its usage in English is often stigmatized.


Merriam Webster Usage Dictionary wrote:double negative noun
plural ∼ -tives
[count] grammar : a clause that has two negative words (such as “nothing” and “don't”) when only one is necessary ◊Double negatives are usually considered incorrect in English.
▪ “I didn't do nothing” is a double negative. If you want to be correct, you should say “I didn't do anything.”


I think I'll consider your case dismissed unless you can come up with a fuck of a lot stronger case than mere assertion.
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Re: Guess whos back?

#2  Postby katja z » Dec 20, 2011 9:52 am

hackenslash wrote:
Can you actually support this, or am I just to take your word for it?


Yes, I can. I happen to know what I'm talking about - I'm a practicing translator with university degrees in two languages under my belt and have some understanding of this on both practical and theoretical levels. I'm not saying this so you would believe me on my word, but just to establish that I have studied this issue.

I also suggest we ask for a split and put this where it belongs, in linguistics.

Now let's have a look at your Wikipedia quote, which actually supports what I said - I've bolded the relevant bits:

Wiki wrote:A double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Multiple negation is the more general term referring to the occurrence of more than one negative in a clause.

In most logics and some languages, double negatives cancel one another and produce an affirmative sense; in other languages, doubled negatives intensify the negation. Languages where multiple negatives intensify each other are said to have negative concord. Portuguese, French, Persian, and Spanish are examples of negative-concord languages,


In fact, it is not quite correct to say that double negatives always intensify the negation - they simply express it fully. I don't know about Persian, but in French, Portuguese and Spanish (and in my mother tongue, Slovenian, as well as most other Slavic languages), double negative is grammatically correct and required (in the standard language), although just how it is applied differs across languages.

I'm bolding the negative elements:

Je ne sais pas. I do not know. - contrast this with Portuguese - Não sei - or Slovenian - Ne vem.
This is a particularity of French (and I think Catalan) - you even need double negative to just negate the verb. In most cases, the double negative comes into play when several elements in the sentence are negated:
Je ne l'ai vu nulle part. I have not seen it anywhere.
No digas nada. Say nothing. / Don't say anything.
Não digas nada.
(Although in Portuguese, this doesn't work with "never" - Nunca o vi. Interesting comparative detail I've just become aware of. In French, you would say Je ne l'ai jamais vu.)
Nikogar nočem videti. I don't want to see anyone.
Spoken French: J'ai rien dit. I haven't said anything. You'll notice only one element of negation (the first element is omitted). This is commonly used in speaking, but is considered incorrect (or, let us say, subnormative).

*You may have noticed that some of the negative elements in French don't look like negatives (personne, rien). This is because, historically, they weren't. Language history is a fascinating subject. Like in biology, to make full sense of a contemporary situation, to understand why the laryngeal nerve goes as it does so to speak, you often have to dig into its evolution.

Now, you probably didn't want quite as much detail for this first part, but I wanted to illustrate how the double negative is perfectly functional in languages where it is used, and not at all an a priori confusion-inducing. This relates to what I said about mathematical logic not being useful for explaining how features of languages function. Also, I friggin' love comparative analysis. :grin:

while Latin and German do not have negative concord. Standard English lacks negative concord, but it was normal in Old English and Middle English, and some modern dialects do have it (e.g. African American Vernacular English and Cockney), although its usage in English is often stigmatized.


That's what I said, isn't it? I said it is not the norm today, but it is used in certain dialects.

Hence in certain situations of communication, especially where the participants are both speakers of one of these dialects, or where person A is not, but person B only has this dialect in their personal repertoire of language varieties, the double negative will be the default form used (only by person B in the second case). It will be understood as intended, but often frowned upon as "incorrect", a marker of "bad" language, and often as a marker of a lower class. Note that Wikipedia says "often stigmatized".

Now, I want to introduce a concept of standard and non-standard varieties of a language. In sociolinguistics we regard standard language as one among the many forms of a given language. It is the variety that the social convention demands we use in certain situations, especially in most forms of writing and in public speaking, and is regarded (by social convention) as correct or the best form of language. It has its uses in the context of large speaking communities of today in that it is a common, shared standard. But it is not the variety most people grow up speaking. The variety people grow up with will be the language of their sociolinguistic group, depending mostly on the geographic location and their social class.

These nonstandard varieties are the way they are because of local linguistic histories. The same goes for the standard variety. This can be usually traced back to the speech of the ruling classes in the political centre of power (Paris, London). Think about the term "Queen's English". Now think about old English kingdoms: there were several emerging written (literary) varieties for Old English before the Norman invasion hit. The moral of this story is that the standard in a language is a bit of a historical contingency.

Other varieties of a language are not inherently worse - after all, they do their business as a tool for communication well enough between speakers who have them in common; they are just less socially desirable. A number of sociolinguistic studies have revealed how judgements by members of group A about how "good" group B's language is are closely dependend on social attitudes towards group B (people can turn this on themselves if they speak a variety which is socially undesirable and which they have been taught to regard as bad, sloppy, incorrect etc. - the phenomenon is called "linguistic insecurity").

This being so, statements on in/correctness of features like the double negative in English can only be a statement about the conformity to the standard variety. Dictionaries and grammars usually express this normative view - as is their job: they are designed to inform us about (and enforce) the linguistic norm. Something can be incorrect from this point of view, but perfectly correct and normal (as in, acceptable, successfully used and understood) in other language varieties. The situation of communication determines whether it is appropriate to use it or not (good back in your home village chatting to your old buddies, not good when you are giving a university lecture - unless the lecture happens to be about sociolinguistics).

(I'm not saying this is true of ALL judgements about correctness and acceptability. Certain things would obviously be "incorrect" in ALL varieties of a given language. For example, I don't think that any variety of English uses "goed" as the past tense of "go". And yet this is a form perfectly logically constructed by analogy to most English verbs. But history and usage mean that it is wrong.)

To conclude with, I would like to invite you to reread my submission for the Science Writing Competition last year, where I explained some of this and gave some references. There is also an excellent book that I mention there, Language Myths (Trudgill and Bauer, eds). It does a very good job of explaining a number of things about how language functions and how it functions socially, with a wealth of examples drawn from research.

As for your dismissal of what I said, I love this quote from the foreword:

We believe that if you want to know about human respiratory physiology you should ask a medic or a physiologist, not an athlete who has been breathing successfully for a number of years (...) And if you want to know how language works you should ask a linguist and not someone who has used language successfully in the past.


It strikes me that this is well understood around here when it comes to physics or biology, but not when it comes to linguistics. (This is a pet peeve of mine and not only directed at you.)

Edited to fix quote tags :doh:
Last edited by Mr.Samsa on Dec 27, 2011 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed minor typo.
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Re: Double Negatives

#3  Postby Zwaarddijk » Dec 20, 2011 12:18 pm

The eternal problem is : people think they know Language, because they know a language. I guess hackenslash fell in that trap.
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Re: Double Negatives

#4  Postby katja z » Dec 20, 2011 12:36 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:The eternal problem is : people think they know Language, because they know a language. I guess hackenslash fell in that trap.


Psychology as a discipline faces a comparable problem. It's actually really, really hard because you can't approach the subject from the outside, as it were, and previous ideas about it - let's call them folk linguistics in analogy to folk psychology - are as likely to be a help than a hindrance. Another difficulty is that all of us have gone to school where a normative conception of language was drummed into us. The normative approach has its place, pragmatically speaking, but it is far from the be-all and end-all of linguistics.
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Re: Double Negatives

#5  Postby hackenslash » Dec 21, 2011 1:33 am

Zwaarddijk wrote:The eternal problem is : people think they know Language, because they know a language. I guess hackenslash fell in that trap.


Hackenslash only fell into the trap of being extremely familiar with the particular language under discussion, and also the trap of being correct. I will come back and address why katja is supremely wide of the mark, along with addressing how she has erected the most ridiculous non sequitur, when I have greater leisure. I hope this will be tomorrow, but it may be later, given the strictures upon my time ATM.

Suffice it to say, she's talking utter bollocks. Not in general linguistic terms, of course, because she knows far more about that than I do, but about this specific case, because of the particulars of the case, and because of my understanding of English usage, which is the core of the topic under discussion, despite the derails that we might be led upon regarding other languages and the implications.

Frankly, she should have given a good deal more thought to this before she piped up. The things she says support her case do precisely the opposite, and only a failure to understand standard English (the topic of discussion), could lead one to the utterly embarrassing fuck-up she has committed. All of this, I will demonstrate, along with the logical fallacies committed along the way.

While I'm away, please feel free to discuss my failures. Only thing is, I suggest you actually find one first.
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Re: Double Negatives

#6  Postby virphen » Dec 21, 2011 3:12 am

I don't need no education. :coffee:.
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Re: Double Negatives

#7  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 21, 2011 3:40 am

Practical English Usage (New Edition), Michael Swan, 2002, pg 362



3 Double and multiple negatives and their meaning

Double negatives are possible in standard English, but then both words normally have their full meaning. Compare:

Say nothing. (=Be silent)
Don't just say nothing. Tell us what the problem is. (=Don't be silent...)
Multiple negatives are sometimes used instead of simple positive structures for special stylistic effects. This is rather literary; in spoken English it can seem unnatural or old-fashioned.
Not a day passes when I don't regret not having studied music in my youth. (More natural: Every day I regret not having studied music when I was younger. OR I wish I had studied music when I was younger.)

4 dialects

In many British, American and other dialects, two or more negatives can be used with a single negative meaning.
I aint seen nobody. (Dialect for I haven't seen anybody.)
I ain't never done nothing to nobody, and I ain't never got nothing from nobody no time. (American song by Bert Williams)

5 extra negative in expressions of doubt

In informal standard spoke English, a negative verb (without a negative meaning) is sometimes used after expressions of doubt or uncertainty.
I shouldn't be surprised if they didn't get married soon. (=... if they got married soon)
I wonder whether I oughtn't to go and see a doctor - I'm feeling a bit funny. (...whether I ought to...)

6... I don't think etc

In informal speech, expressions like I don't think or I don't suppose are often added after negative statements. In this case, the extra negative makes no difference to the meaning of the statement.
She hasn't got much chance of passing the exam, I don't think.
We won't be back before midnight, I don't suppose.
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Re: Double Negatives

#8  Postby don't get me started » Dec 21, 2011 4:15 am

Hackenslash, I'm interested to know what this 'extremely familiar with the language' means.
I'm a language teacher of many years experience, have given presentations at national and international conferences and published in peer reviewed journals, and I would hesitate to describe myself as 'extremely familiar with the language'.
I can talk at length about conversation analysis, listening receipts, backchanneling, smallword use, strategic and discourse competency, the findings of corpus linguistics concerning spoken language and so on, but I am pretty hazy on phonics and phonetics, and still get confused about the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses.
What is this 'extremely familiar' of which you speak? Does it mean a knowledge of prescriptive grammar for use in formal English writing? in my experience this is usually what people mean by these kinds of statements.


I'll add to what Katja Z wrote by mentioning that comprehensibility to the interlocutor is the 'prime directive' of language use, and if someone says 'I looked outside,but I didn't see nothing' then the meaning is transparently clear. (Remembering of course that most meaning emerges at the level of discourse, not at the level of the sentence.)

The key my in my example is that it is spoken, not written language, and if the meaning is not clear, then the language provides for this with a suite of strategic skills which all competent users of the language can fall back on to rectify the problem.

To equate the rules concerning sentence level grammar construction for formal writing with the usage of the language as a whole is misguided, and not recognizing the complexities and multifaceted nature of human language.

(Oh, Spearthrower, I keep a copy of Swan to hand as well...you never know when you're gonna need it.)
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Re: Double Negatives

#9  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 21, 2011 4:27 am

don't get me started wrote:
I'm a language teacher of many years experience, have given presentations at national and international conferences and published in peer reviewed journals, and I would hesitate to describe myself as 'extremely familiar with the language'.
I can talk at length about conversation analysis, listening receipts, backchanneling, smallword use, strategic and discourse competency, the findings of corpus linguistics concerning spoken language and so on, but I am pretty hazy on phonics and phonetics, and still get confused about the difference between defining and non-defining relative clauses.


I am also a language teacher of many years experience, and have given presentations at national and international conferences (no peer-reviewed journals though), and I would not hesitate for a moment to describe myself as 'passingly familiar' with English! :grin: I am completely ignorant of half the things you mentioned (bolded above), although I might know them by another name.... I can do phonics and phonetics and the difference between defining and non-defining clauses off the cuff though! It's a funny business! :)

Incidentally, there's a humorous tension between knowing this stuff, and making mistakes with it in daily usage. I am trained to identify errors in other people's speech, but that doesn't always translate to noticing your own mistakes!


don't get me started wrote:
(Oh, Spearthrower, I keep a copy of Swan to hand as well...you never know when you're gonna need it.)


A worthy purchase indeed... but I despair of what I'm going to do with all these tomes when I decide to leave Thailand.
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Re: Double Negatives

#10  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Dec 21, 2011 4:33 am

If illiterate people use incorrect grammar, I am not aware of them being misunderstood on a regular basis.

In other words, if a murder suspect is being questioned over a crime and says something like: "Hey man, I didn't do no murder" The police do not generally take that as a confession to the crime, just of bad grammar. The intent [denial of the crime] is quite clear.
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Re: Double Negatives

#11  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 21, 2011 4:49 am

Darwinsbulldog wrote:If illiterate people use incorrect grammar, I am not aware of them being misunderstood on a regular basis.

In other words, if a murder suspect is being questioned over a crime and says something like: "Hey man, I didn't do no murder" The police do not generally take that as a confession to the crime, just of bad grammar. The intent [denial of the crime] is quite clear.




While there are various structures with double negative that are common enough in particular dialects for any native speaker to make sense of them, there are certainly ways to use double negatives that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
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Re: Double Negatives

#12  Postby don't get me started » Dec 21, 2011 4:52 am

Yeah, I always think that the business of language is like medicine. Sure there are GP's but mostly people have to specialize.

You probably know the stuff you bolded either by another name, or subconciously.

Listening receipts are the short utterances made by a listener while another interlocutor is holding the floor. 'yeah, uh-huh, right' (different languages do this VERY differently..often causing offense if transferred across linguistic borders.)
This term is favored in Conversation analysis.
The term 'backchanneling' refers to the same phenomenon but is favored in discourse analysis. (The term was only coined in 1970 by Yngve...strange seeing as it has always been present in language)

Smallwords are the words like 'Well, I mean, You know, Something like that'. Hasselgreen 2004 found that these are vital indicators of spoken fluency. (Apropos the main topic...these smallwords used correctly give largely overshadow 'correctness' of grammar in spoken language in determinations of language ability)

Corpus linguistics has found some interesting things about spoken grammar. At the discourse level, speakers often start a future narrative with 'be going to' for future and then continue with 'will', irregardless of the differences found in grammar books between these two forms.

Likewise speakers usually avoid backshifting tense in reported speech ( 'He said that he's going to have a party ' is preferred to 'He said that he was going to have a party' ...not that you'd know this from most grammar books. Also the preferred form of the reporting verb is past continuous, ' He was saying that he's having a party.)

Spoken Language and Applied Linguistics by Michael McCarthy (Cambridge University Press 1998) goes into corpus findings and spoken language in some depth. It changed my teaching. I can tell you.

Now, if I can battle through relative clauses one more time...
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Re: Double Negatives

#13  Postby Spearthrower » Dec 21, 2011 4:56 am

Ahh you're right; I know them all by other names. :)
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Re: Double Negatives

#14  Postby orpheus » Dec 21, 2011 5:16 am

Am I really going to be the first to tell the famous story about Sidney Morgenbesser? Goody for me!

The Columbia University professor of philosophy was in the audience at a seminar. The speaker observed that, although in almost all languages a double negative equals a positive, the converse does not hold in English: there is no example in which a double positive equals a negative.

At which point Morgenbesser rolled his eyes and said "yeah, right."



edited to add:

Forgive me, I'm about to sin by going totally off-topic. But I just checked to make sure it really was Morgenbesser in that story (it was), and I came across some other gems about the philosopher:

--Morgenbesser, ordering dessert, is told by the waitress that he can choose between apple pie and blueberry pie. He orders the apple pie. Shortly thereafter, the waitress comes back and says that cherry pie is also an option; Morgenbesser says "In that case I'll have the blueberry pie."

--Morgenbesser once set this as an exam question: “It is often said that Marx and Freud went too far. How far would you go?”

(actually, I think that's a really good question.)

--In response to Heidegger's ontological query "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Morgenbesser answered "If there were nothing you'd still be complaining!"

--Asked to prove a questioner's existence, Morgenbesser shot back, "Who's asking?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Morgenbesser

And finally, this one, as told by Hitchens:

The Late, Great Hitch wrote:
On another occasion, he put his pipe in his mouth as he was ascending the subway steps. A policeman approached and told him that there was no smoking on the subway. Morgenbesser explained—pointed out might be a better term—that he was leaving the subway, not entering it, and had not yet lit up. The cop repeated his injunction. Morgenbesser reiterated his observation. After a few such exchanges, the cop saw he was beaten and fell back on the oldest standby of enfeebled authority: “If I let you do it, I’d have to let everyone do it.” To this the old philosopher replied, “Who do you think you are—Kant?” His last word was misconstrued, and the whole question of the categorical imperative had to be hashed out down at the precinct house. Morgenbesser walked.

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Re: Double Negatives

#15  Postby natselrox » Dec 21, 2011 5:33 am

orpheus wrote:Am I really going to be the first to tell the famous story about Sidney Morgenbesser? Goody for me!

The Columbia University professor of philosophy was in the audience at a seminar. The speaker observed that, although in almost all languages a double negative equals a positive, the converse does not hold in English: there is no example in which a double positive equals a negative.

At which point Morgenbesser rolled his eyes and said "yeah, right."



edited to add:

Forgive me, I'm about to sin by going totally off-topic. But I just checked to make sure it really was Morgenbesser in that story (it was), and I came across some other gems about the philosopher:

--Morgenbesser, ordering dessert, is told by the waitress that he can choose between apple pie and blueberry pie. He orders the apple pie. Shortly thereafter, the waitress comes back and says that cherry pie is also an option; Morgenbesser says "In that case I'll have the blueberry pie."

--Morgenbesser once set this as an exam question: “It is often said that Marx and Freud went too far. How far would you go?”

(actually, I think that's a really good question.)

--In response to Heidegger's ontological query "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Morgenbesser answered "If there were nothing you'd still be complaining!"

--Asked to prove a questioner's existence, Morgenbesser shot back, "Who's asking?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Morgenbesser

And finally, this one, as told by Hitchens:

The Late, Great Hitch wrote:
On another occasion, he put his pipe in his mouth as he was ascending the subway steps. A policeman approached and told him that there was no smoking on the subway. Morgenbesser explained—pointed out might be a better term—that he was leaving the subway, not entering it, and had not yet lit up. The cop repeated his injunction. Morgenbesser reiterated his observation. After a few such exchanges, the cop saw he was beaten and fell back on the oldest standby of enfeebled authority: “If I let you do it, I’d have to let everyone do it.” To this the old philosopher replied, “Who do you think you are—Kant?” His last word was misconstrued, and the whole question of the categorical imperative had to be hashed out down at the precinct house. Morgenbesser walked.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/feat ... hens200402


:this: made my morning! :thumbup:

Edit: FWIW, in my mother tongue, Bengali, a double negative implies a positive. :cheers:
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Re: Double Negatives

#16  Postby LucidFlight » Dec 21, 2011 6:00 am

I'm not saying nothing.
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Re: Double Negatives

#17  Postby natselrox » Dec 21, 2011 6:04 am

I'm not sparing my inability to not speak.
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Re: Double Negatives

#18  Postby katja z » Dec 21, 2011 9:10 am

LucidFlight wrote:I'm not saying nothing.


Interestingly, this would probably be taken as a positive, while "I ain't saying nothing", which is technically exactly the same sentence but in a lower register, would be taken as a negative.

This is because in your example the form "I'm not" functions as a marker of a register which is close enough to Standard English that the double negative is NOT commonly used in it to express simple negation. "I ain't", on the other hand, marks a register where double negatives are a common way of expressing negation. Context, context, context.

natselrox wrote:I'm not sparing my inability to not speak.


:grin: I've also been thinking about what happens when negation is expressed by prefixes. It gets quite interesting :)
"I'm not unhappy": it doesn't mean that you are NOT happy, but it is not quite the same as stating "I am happy" either.
Your "inability to not speak" could be rephrased as "inability to shut up" and puff goes the double negative and with it, the stylistic effect you have achieved.

@Hackenslash: well, I'm sorry you are taking things this way. If you reread what I have written, you will see that I have never disputed your proficiency as a speaker of English; what I have disputed is the notion that a person knows the ins and outs of how human language functions by virtue of speaking one (or even several) of them.

Of course, if I'm talking such utter bollocks, you are free to not waste time with this ridiculous and embarrassing fuck-up of mine; ignore my piping up, because clearly my failure to understand standard English means that I will not understand what you are saying?

I am, however, tempted to ask: in what other terms if not linguistic ones can one be right or wrong about a question concerning language?
Suffice it to say, she's talking utter bollocks. Not in general linguistic terms, of course, because she knows far more about that than I do, but about this specific case,


"General linguistic terms" give the scientific background for interpreting this specific case. How is it fine to dismiss that, but not fine to dismiss, say, the theory of evolution when explaining a specific case of evolution? :scratch:
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Re: Double Negatives

#19  Postby LucidFlight » Dec 21, 2011 9:18 am

katja z wrote:
LucidFlight wrote:I'm not saying nothing.


Interestingly, this would probably be taken as a positive, while "I ain't saying nothing", which is technically exactly the same sentence but in a lower register, would be taken as a negative.

This is because in your example the form "I'm not" functions as a marker of a register which is close enough to Standard English that the double negative is NOT commonly used in it to express simple negation. "I ain't", on the other hand, marks a register where double negatives are a common way of expressing negation. Context, context, context.

You don't say! :)
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Re: Double Negatives

#20  Postby katja z » Dec 21, 2011 9:45 am

@ don't get me started: This is fascinating stuff! I was severely tempted to go into corpus linguistics at some point. I still keep promising myself I'll read up on it some day. The book that you mention seems like a good start. Of course some tools I use on a daily basis incorporate (hah) findings from corpora, at least in English - other languages seem to be lagging behind - and this is very helpful, but not quite enough for my curiosity. :dopey:

I didn't know the concept of "smallwords", although I'm well aware of their pragmatic importance. What really hammered this home for me was translating dialogues in fiction and having to deal with different conventions for spoken language and for representing spoken language in writing. (Especially when the original is an "already-translated" one, for instance a French-language text where the characters are supposed to speak, say, Wolof, so French is reshaped to represent their ways of speaking.) Figuring out things like this is one of the reasons good fiction is so much more fun to translate than more sober stuff like history or philosophy. :)
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