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Re: "be'be'" - double negation

tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Sat Apr 13 09:52:37 2002

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Re: "be'be'" - double negation



At 18:34 2002-04-07 +0000, willm@cstone.net wrote:
>In some languages (and English slang dialects) the "double negative" in "I 
>ain't never goin' there again," is an emphatic, rather than a logical 
>reversal of one negative by the other. [...] So far as we know, Klingon 
>always adhere's to the logical string of negatives reversing each other 
>rather than emphasizing each other.

That inference seems specious.

I hasten to point out that modern standard English is quite rare among 
humanoid languages in having this "logical reversal" rule -- in fact, it's 
not even all that common among forms of English.  (Cf., for example, "He 
never yet no villainy ne said / In all his life, unto no manner wight", a 
few dozen lines into the prologue of /Canterbury Tales/.)


To the contrary, most languages are like this:

* If you have a "negative word" in the clause, you /have/ to put a negation 
on the verb.  Cf. French "Rien _n_'est la`." (Nothing is not there.)

* Or: without necessarily negating the verb, you get to use any number of 
"negative words", without entertaining this weird idea of them "cancelling 
out".  If Klingon works this way, it could lead to sentences like this:

   Officer:  'av!  DaHjaj yotlhDaq 'Iv Dalegh?
           guard!  today field-LOC who you.him-see?
                   (who do you see in the field today?)

   Guard:   pa'   wej     pagh vIlegh!
            there not.yet none I.him-see!
            I haven't seen anyone[/thing] there yet.

   Officer: wa'Hu' je?
            And yesterday?

   Guard:   pa'   not   pagh vIlegh!
            there never none I.him-see!
            I haven't ever seen anyone[/thing] there.

In languages where you can have several negative words, you /can/ sometimes 
say "I saw no-one some-time" and get the same meaning as "I saw no-one 
no-time" (I never saw anyone), but it's my impression that the latter is 
typically more frequent. But a greatly complicating factor is whether the 
language in question has generally serviceable words for "some-time", 
"some-place", "some-one", etc. -- i.e., "non-negative" versions of the 
negative words.

Since Okrand and any even passably competent Federation linguist or 
polyglot would be aware that modern standard English's notion of "negatives 
cancelling" is a bizarre exception in humanoid languages, his apparent 
silence on this point in TKD should reasonably be taken as implicating that 
Klingon is nomal in being unlike English on this point.

That leaves open the question of whether Klingon requires (or even allows) 
negative words to negate the verb.  So note:
TKW p.201:
    Dal pagh jagh.  [No enemy is boring.]
    (not:  *{Dalbe' pagh jagh})
Similarly:
TKW p.80:  "not lay'Ha' tlhIngan." (and not *{not lay'Ha'be' tlhIngan.})
TKW p.46:  "not toj tlhInganpu'" (and not *{not tojbe' tlhInganpu'})

(Altho that doesn't specify whether you /can/ say *{Dalbe' pagh jagh} and 
get the meaning "No enemy is boring".)


Voragh qatlhob!  What does the canon corpus show on these points?


--
Sean M. Burke    http://www.spinn.net/~sburke/



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