[PLUG-TALK] Multiple negation and English

Aaron Burt aaron at bavariati.org
Tue Dec 24 13:02:51 PST 2019

On 2019-12-24 11:09, John Jason Jordan wrote:
> An essay from a linguist.
> On Tue, 24 Dec 2019 16:53:59 +0100
> Tomas Kuchta <tomas.kuchta.lists at gmail.com> dijo:
>> Now, I have conscious, not unconscious (double negative warning to 
>> true
>> English speakers),
> First, let me generalize about negation in languages. The majority of
> the world's languages use multiple negation, usually expressed in the
> form of negative concord. For example, in Spanish and other present day
> Latin languages, once a negative word is used in a sentence the
> remainder of the words in the sentence must also be negative. These
> languages do not have negative polarity items (NPIs) like 'anything,'
> 'ever,' etc.; the negative word ('nothing,' 'never') is used for both
> English words.
> 	No tengo nada
> 	Not I-have nothing
> 	'I don't have anything.'
> If you speak a language with multiple negation you must divorce the
> language from rules of algebra. Humans have spoken languages for
> hundreds of thousands of years before algebra was invented.

I was going to make a clever comment here, but I don't got nothin'.  :)

Language rules are such a beautiful thing because they're emergent from 
the properties of brains, societies and the natural world, and so 
difficult to observe because they're as invisible as water is to a fish. 
  Algebra, physics (happy Newtonmas Eve!) and so many other things are so 
important precisely because they're NOT intuitive.

Thank you John for this wee gift for all of us, and may your new year be 
lovely and bright.


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