tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Mon Nov 30 14:24:49 2009

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Re: Double negatives

Christopher Doty (


On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 14:17, Mark J. Reed <> wrote:
> They are only grammatically incorrect in one variety of English that
> has no native speakers.  The English taught in school is not the One
> True English, and its rules are rarely followed outside of formal
> writing.
>  Every language has a grammar, whose rules are inside the heads of
> its speakers and impossible to violate unintentiomally.  Native
> Anglophones don't learn their native language in school.  What is
> taught in English class is effectively a second language to every
> student.  This shows in the emphasis on the written form, which is
> necessarily artificial.
>  It's misleading to refer to any utterance emitted by a native
> speaker in normal conversation as grammatically incorrect.  Say rather
> that it is nonstandard.
>  Based on what Okrand says in TKD and elsewhere, Klingons have this
> same dichtomy between actual use and prescriptivist rules. (As have
> most human cultures; much of what we know of the history of Latin and
> the Romance languages comes from harangues against the horrible
> grammar of the common people.)  So it's reasonable to draw parallels.
> But please don't make arguments that only work if you pretend that
> every native English speaker incorrectly speaks their first language
> :)
> On Monday, November 30, 2009, ghunchu'wI' 'utlh <> wrote:
>> On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 2:37 PM, Christopher Doty <> wrote:
>>>> OTOH Chris is right in that double negatives are, in fact, a feature of *informal* or colloquial Standard English.  Every native speaker will correctly understand utterances like:
>>>>  "Don't give me none of your lip, boy!"
>>>>  "Rules?  We don't need no stinkin' rules!"
>>> Exactly! You would know that these sentences are negative.
>> I would also expect to have them marked incorrect on an English test,
>> since they are not grammatically proper English.
>> (Note that I carefully didn't call them "ungrammatical". I called them
>> "not grammatically proper". Please don't let that particular tangent
>> lead you off the topic here. Do you have a copy of Klingon for the
>> Galactic Traveler? You might find the section on intentional
>> ungrammaticality to be helpful in understanding the vocabulary in
>> common use on this forum.)
>> Similarly, {not vIleghbe'} "I never didn't see him" might perhaps be
>> something an uneducated or careless speaker of Klingon would say when
>> he meant {not vIlegh} "I never saw him." But it would be considered an
>> error nonetheless.
>>> Fair enough, we can say that "negative concord" isn't required in
>>> Klingon.
>> Every example we have tells us it is "not required" in exactly the
>> same way putting the object after the verb is "not required". In other
>> words, doing it is wrong.
>> The Klingon Dictionary was written for people who speak English.
>> Generally, it doesn't explicitly point out things that Klingon doesn't
>> do if English doesn't do them either.
>>> This isn't the same, though, as saying that such a thing is
>>> ungrammatical in Klingon as in English.  One might still be able to
>>> get two negatives, even if it isn't required.
>> It's easy enough to have two negatives in a Klingon sentence:
>> {matambe'qangbe'} "We are unwilling to not be silent", for example.
>> However, you won't get two negatives both meaning the same thing.
>> -- ghunchu'wI'
> --
> Mark J. Reed <>

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