tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 30 13:09:12 2009

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Re: Double negatives

Christopher Doty (suomichris@gmail.com)



'ach chab Sop Chris neH!

On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 12:56, Tracy Canfield <toastrix@gmail.com> wrote:
> 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 <suomichris@gmail.com>:
>> 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 <toastrix@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> 2009/11/30 ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <qunchuy@alcaco.net>:
>>>> 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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>>
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