Double negative constructions

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PersoLatin

Senior Member
UK
Persian - Iran
At least in modern English use of double negatives is seen as incorrect e.g. "I don’t know nothing", "I didn’t see no one", so with adverbs like no/thing/where/one/body or never, the relevant verb in the sentence has to be non negative.

In modern Persian at least, double negatives are allowed when هیچ/hič (none) & هرگز/hargez (never) are used , e.g. you can say ‘man hargez ne-mi-ravam’ so word for word: 'I never will not go' (I will never go) or 'man hič-kas rā na-didam' for 'I no-body not saw'(I did not see anybody). This however doesn't happen is normal (unstressed) interrogative sentences, so "hič-čiz rā bordid?" for "nothing took you?"(you took nothing?/did you take anything?).

Having said that, In modern Persian and poetry, you will see constructs like na-kas/jā/gāh/ čiz (no body/where/time/thing ), e.g. 'na-kas dānad' for 'no one knows', or 'na kasi āmad va na čizi resid' (nobody came and nothing arrived), so no double negatives, maybe the obvious negation marker 'na' in na-kas/jā/gāh/čiz, keeps the verb non negative, rather like in English.

Now a rather complex question, how is this concept handled in your respective language(s), modern or ancient, both in interrogative and affirmative sentences, also do adverbs equivalent to no/thing/where/one/body or never, carry a negative marker in them?

Many thanks in advance.
 
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  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    At least in modern English use of double negatives is seen as incorrect e.g. "I don’t know nothing", "I didn’t see no one", so with adverbs like no/thing/where/one/body or never, the relevant verb in the sentence has to be non negative.
    The situation in German is very similar. These constructs are rejected in standard language but still popular in many regional vernaculars. I think this is true for most European languages. Double negation or grammatical agreement or as semantic re-enforcement seems to be native in European language and its rejection in standard language originated in learned Latin, as far as I know. In technical language you want to be able to express things like "There is no house with nobody living in it" = "Every house has at least one resident". If re-enforcing double negative were allowed, such sentences weren't possible or at least ambiguous.
     
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    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Firstly, in Modern Greek the negation is formed with the particles "δε(ν)" [δe(n)] and "μη(ν)" [mi(n)].
    E.g. Δεν θέλω να φάω (I don't want to eat)
    Θέλω να μη φάω (I want not to eat).
    At least in modern English use of double negatives is seen as incorrect e.g. "I don’t know nothing", "I didn’t see no one", so with adverbs like no/thing/where/one/body or never, the relevant verb in the sentence has to be non negative.
    Mod. Greek uses indefinitive pronouns or adverbs with both positive meaning (in questions) and negative meaning (in negations). But in negations you must also use the negative particles "δε(ν)" or "μη(ν)". In affirmative sentences the same elements don't work, for example: in questions and negations you can use "τίποτα", but in an affirmative sentence you use "κάτι". Examples:

    "Δεν θέλω τίποτα." (I want nothing) or maybe (I don't want anything) --- negative sentence
    "Θέλεις τίποτα;" (Do you want anything?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Θέλω κάτι." (I want something.) --- affirmative sentence

    "Δεν υπάρχει κανένας εδώ." (There is nobody here) or maybe (There isn't anybody here) --- negative sentence
    "Υπάρχει κανένας εδώ;" (Is there anybody here?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Υπάρχει κάποιος εδώ." (There is somebody here) --- affirmative sentence

    "Δεν θα πάμε πουθενά." (We shall go nowhere) or maybe (We shall not go anywhere) --- negative sentence
    "Θα πάμε πουθενά;" (Shall we go anywhere?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Θα πάμε κάπου." (We shall go somewhere") --- affirmative sentence

    [You can use "κάτι", "κάποιος" and "κάπου" also in negative and interrogative sentences, but the nuances are a bit different]
     
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    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    Firstly, in Modern Greek the negation is formed with the particles "δε(ν)" [δe(n)] and "μη(ν)" [mi(n)].
    E.g. Δεν θέλω να φάω (I don't want to eat)
    Θέλω να μη φάω (I want not to eat).

    Mod. Greek uses indefinitive pronouns or adverbs with both positive meaning (in questions) and negative meaning (in negations). But in questions you must also use the negative particles "δε(ν)" or "μη(ν)". In affirmative sentences the same elements don't work, for example: in questions and negations you can use "τίποτα", but in an affirmative sentence you use "κάτι". Examples:

    "Δεν θέλω τίποτα." (I want nothing) or maybe (I don't want anything) --- negative sentence
    "Θέλεις τίποτα;" (Do you want anything?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Θέλω κάτι." (I want something.) --- affirmative sentence

    "Δεν υπάρχει κανένας εδώ." (There is nobody here) or maybe (There isn't anybody here) --- negative sentence
    "Υπάρχει κανένας εδώ;" (Is there anybody here?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Υπάρχει κάποιος εδώ." (There is somebody here) --- affirmative sentence

    "Δεν θα πάμε πουθενά." (We shall go nowhere) or maybe (We shall not go anywhere) --- negative sentence
    "Θα πάμε πουθενά;" (Shall we go anywhere?) --- interrogative sentence
    "Θα πάμε κάπου." (We shall go somewhere") --- affirmative sentence

    [You can use "κάτι", "κάποιος" and "κάπου" also in negative and interrogative sentences, but the nuances are a bit different]
    Did 'ouk/h and me survive into Modern Greek?
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Did 'ouk/h and me survive into Modern Greek?
    "Μη" has survived, but we use it ofen with a final ν. As I wrote:
    Firstly, in Modern Greek the negation is formed with the particles "δε(ν)" [δe(n)] and "μη(ν)" [mi(n)].
    "Ουκ/ουχ" hasn't survived. It's only used in archaic phrases. But the Mod. Greek "no" ("όχι") has evolved from this.

    On the other hand, "ουδείς/ουδεμία" ("no one" m/f) and "ουδέν" ("nothing" neut.) are still active, though very rare, and denote an elevated style.
    "Ουδείς ήρθε (no one came)" ---> no double negation
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "Δεν θέλω τίποτα." (I want nothing) or maybe (I don't want anything) --- negative sentence
    [/QUOTE]
    But τίποτα is translated as "nothing", so Δεν θέλω τίποτα should be translated literally as "I don't want nothing", as there is a clear double negation in Greek, which was not stated explicitly in your post.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    In Polish (and I believe in most Slavic languages), negation can be not only double but endlessly multiple, for example "nikt (1) nigdy (2) nikomu (3) nic (4) złego tutaj nie zrobił (5)" (nobody (1) has never(2) not done (5) nothing (4) wrong to nobody (3) here. This is an exmple of a real sentence, but you can create artificial sentences with an unending series of negations.
     

    danielstan

    Senior Member
    Romanian - Romania
    See also:
    Double negative - Wikipedia

    Romanian does have double negation.

    Examples:
    Eu nu (1) știu nimic (2) would mean literally "I do not (1) know nothing (2)"
    Eu nu (1) am fumat niciodată (2) - literally: "I did not (1) smoke never (2)"

    Example of multiple negations in Romanian:
    Eu nu (1) am datorat niciodată (2) nimic (3) nimănui (4) - literally: "I have not (1) owed never (2) nothing (3) to nobody (4)"

    Note:
    Some Romanians transpose such constructions when speaking French, so they end up in wrong sentences like:
    "Je ne sais pas rien"
    "Je n'ai pas jamais fumé"
     
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    OBrasilo

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese
    In Polish (and I believe in most Slavic languages), negation can be not only double but endlessly multiple, for example "nikt (1) nigdy (2) nikomu (3) nic (4) złego tutaj nie zrobił (5)" (nobody (1) has never(2) not done (5) nothing (4) wrong to nobody (3) here. This is an exmple of a real sentence, but you can create artificial sentences with an unending series of negations.
    This kind of construction is also allowed in both Slovenian and Italian.
    Slovenian: "Nihče ni nikoli nikomur naredil nič slabega.".
    Italian: "Nessuno ha mai fatto niente di male a nessuno." (though in Italian, you tend to ommit the verb negation in this kind of case).
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    In Catalan postverbal double negation is obligatory, preverbal is optional. I think in older language it was obligatory like in (written) French, its omission may be an influence from Spanish:

    No ha canviat res.
    Res (no) ha canviat.


    Such particles can also be used in a similar fashion as any- in English for questions:

    Vols res? "Do you want anything?"

    That's why most of these particles aren't negative in origin to begin with:

    res "nothing/anything", from Latin res "thing", cognate to French rien
    enlloc
    "nowhere/anywhere", literally "in place"
    mai "never/ever", from Latin magis "more"
    ningú "noone/anyone", from Latin nec unus "not one" (this one is negative indeed)
     
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