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Negative + Negative = Positive

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Essorant
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0 posted 06-09-2007 12:51 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Does anyone know exactly whence the notion of "negative + negative = positive" came in respect to language?  

Isn't this a mathematical concept somewhat forced onto the language world.  In other words, demanding words to act like math?


Balladeer
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1 posted 06-09-2007 02:28 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Interesting question. I didn't know that it WAS a set rule of language.

If I say, I CAN'T NOT EAT FOR A WEEK, i'm using two negatives but it doesn't mean I CAN eat for a week. It means I can't go a week without eating, therefore the CAN'T NOT does not equate to CAN.

In other cases it's simply a question of applied logic. YOU SHOULDN'T NOT EAT means you should for the simple logical reason that the second negative reverses the first. I don't see it as a demand but rather as an appilcation of natural reasoning.
Not A Poet
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2 posted 06-09-2007 02:43 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Not only does it not work, as pointed out by Balladeer, but my recollection from school is that double negatives are to be avoided, universally.

Oh, BTW, the world of logical mathematics would never attempt to impose any kind of logic on the totally illogical world of language, especially English.
Balladeer
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3 posted 06-09-2007 03:39 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Unless you're Mick Jagger, Pete....but, even then, you can't get no satisfaction.
oceanvu2
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4 posted 06-09-2007 07:26 PM       View Profile for oceanvu2   Email oceanvu2   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for oceanvu2

RE: "Oh, BTW, the world of logical mathematics would never attempt to impose any kind of logic on the totally illogical world of language, especially English."

Isn't this one of the major elements of AI research, creating algorithms that allow a machine to respond to language with language?

Considering the following little tautology, I can see why this might take some time:

"Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like bananas.

Just a little example of why ESL students go bonkers about the middle of the second semester.

And no, I'm not a fan of double negatives.  They are often clunky.

Best, Jim
Essorant
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5 posted 06-09-2007 08:16 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

But originally and for the majority of English's evolution, in Old English and Middle English, and somewhat into Modern English, it was not at all thought  that another negative reverses the first in a saying such as "can't get no satisfaction" but rather that the other further emphasized the negativeness, and that is how such multiple negatives were used in those kind of sayings.  There was no basis in the former stages and tradition of the language itself to suggest otherwise for the English language, for the language widely accepted double negatives as normal and logical, as another negative further emphasizing negativeness, just as many, perhaps even most other languages do.  So what became different in our stages of the language to make them no longer seem "emphatic" but instead seem "reversing", and now in "reversing" make the "emphatic" ones seem "illogical"?  

Essorant
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6 posted 06-29-2007 09:38 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Here is a saying about Arthur from Laamon's Brut

Ne isęh nęver na man selere cniht nenne žene him wes Aršur

"Not saw never no man better knight none than was Arthur"

ilsm
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7 posted 04-26-2008 07:44 PM       View Profile for ilsm   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ilsm

I believe double negatives were in frequent use in Mediaeval English as a result of the influnce of the Normans - see new thread entitled "Negatives".

I also think double negatives are frequently used (in British English at least) for emphasis: "I ain't never going back!"  No-one would ever expect Arnie to say that, would they?

And I thak Baladeer for his explanation of why double negatives can convey an entirely different meaning from the simple opposite of what is stated.
 
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