tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 30 12:57:04 2009

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Re: Double negatives

Tracy Canfield (

I was trying to be accurate without getting too detailed, and do a lot
of handwaving about "this context".  "Any" behaves differently
depending on the context, and I didn't want to get into whether there
was more than one "any".  As the determiner in a subject NP, "Any kind
of pie" is clearly different from "No kind of pie", and that shouldn't
vary by variety of English.  The interchangeability really kicks in
when the NP is the object - "There isn't any/no pie", "Chris can't
have any/no pie," etc.  chab Sop Chris 'e' chaw'be'lu'.

2009/11/30 Christopher Doty <>:
> Certainly in some places, but any can also have a non-negative
> meaning: "Any kind of pie is fine."
> (Also, how did we get on pie?  I want some now...)
> Chris
> On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 12:43, Tracy Canfield <> wrote:
>> 2009/11/30 ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <>:
>>> Did I err in using the name "Standard English" to refer to the strict
>>> grammatical rules taught in school?  Or did my English teachers err in
>>> telling me that double negatives essentially cancel?
>> Your English teachers erred, and they erred in two different ways.
>> One is the "double negatives cancel", which others have gotten into,
>> so I won't rehash.
>> The other is the idea that the negative only occurs once in an English
>> sentence.  Something more subtle seems to be going on here.  Compare
>> SE:  I don't want any pie.
>> Other Englishes:  I don't want no pie.
>> An English teacher might say that the first sentence contains one
>> negative element, and the second contains two.  But consider this
>> disallowed SE sentence:
>> SE:  *I want any pie.
>> SE:  I want some pie.
>> (the * is a standard linguistic shorthand for a sentence that native
>> speakers would consider impermissible)
>> The rule doesn't seem to be "Some varieties use double negatives, and
>> some don't."  The rule is more along the lines of "SE uses 'some' with
>> non-negative constructions of this sort, and 'any' with negative
>> constructions; some other spoken varieties use 'some' with
>> non-negative constructions and 'no' with negative constructions."  I
>> don't have _The Language Instinct_ nearby, but Pinker argues (citing
>> someone else, I think) that when you compare the distribution of "any"
>> and "no" in these sorts of construction, they have the same rules.  In
>> other words, if "no" is a negative above, "any" is too.

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