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double negatives

From:Boudewijn Rempt <bsarempt@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 21, 1999, 6:40
This is what comes of those !@#$% time differences! I knew I shouldn't
have gone to sleep at midnight. I'm going for a combined reaction here...

Matt Pearson wrote:

I wrote:

>> The first version simply doesn't make sense to a Charyan: >> how can 'nobody' actually do something positive, like loving. >> Where there's no-one to do something, nothing gets done, so >> the verb must be negated.
> Hmm, I'm not sure I buy this explanation. Maybe the "tau-" > prefix is really some sort of irrealis (or 'negative mood') > marker, rather than a true polarity marker. That's how I > understand double negation in Tokana, anyway:
I think the explanation was rather based on Charyan intuition about Denden than a thorough linguistic analysis. While Denden is singularly free, for instance in word order, double negatives seem to be really obligatory. The negative prefix <tau- ~ -tu ~ ta- ~ t@> can also be used to 'negate' nouns or adjectives, and it can be seen in, for instance, _turantos_, 'nobody', where it is rather fossilized, or _taugyan_ 'boring' which is opposed to _gyan_ 'interesting'. In its reduplicated form (and also, but rarely singly) it can also be used to indicated non-agreement: _tautau_ 'no' In that light I'm not entirely convinced that it is an 'irrealis' or 'negative mood' marker - but to see it as a kind of 'negative agreement' marker looks pretty neat. I may go with that. On the other hand, in sentences without an overt negative subject, there isn't an optional negative particle, like in Tokana _Me tu uimotiko_, and the negative prefix in Denden is different from all other verbal affixes in that it is a prefix, instead of a suffix. The modal affixes/attitudinal qualifiers all occur in the first suffixal slot. The lack of such an optional extra negative particle to fill out sentences with a positive subject and a negated verb makes the agreement theory more difficult to support as a general rule.
> Incidentally, the similarity between Denden "tau-"/"turantos" > and Tokana "tu"/"tunton" is pretty striking. Distant relatives, > perhaps? :-)
Perhaps, let's compare the Swadesh list and determine the exacte date of splitting! Ed Heil wrote:
> Really? Based on mental space mechanics a la Gilles Fauconnier, it > seems very possible for "nobody" to do something -- the something > occurs in the mental space of the negation. Perhaps Charyan verbs > must be marked with a negation marker to be used in negation-spaces at > all, unlike English verbs, which don't care.
Hmmm. I think I see a parallell between the intuitive, Charyan explanation, and this explanation. I think it all boils down to the matter that there's some agreement needed between inherently negative subjects and the verb: the negation of the subject should be carried over to the verb. There still remains the conceptual fact that no loving gets done, because there is not a person who does the loving. Nik wrote:
>> Perhaps Charyan verbs must be marked with a negation marker to be used >> in negation-spaces at all, unlike English verbs, which don't care.
> I s'pose that's one way of viewing mandatory redundant negation, > especially since Charyan seems to use an inflection for negation.
Just what I thought myself. Ed Heil also wrote:
> So your analysis of double negatives would be correct. The only > difference between this and a language in which double negatives > really do negate twice (perhaps resulting in a positive) would be that > in such a language, you could not use two successive negatives to > indicate the same negative space; on the contrary, the second negative > would have to create a negation-daughter-space from the original > negation-daughter-space; this second negation space would block the > inclusion of its focused material from the first one; that first one > would contain, as a focus, the link to the focussed material in the > second space which prevents its inclusion in the first; and this would > be construed as blocking from the original parent space any such link, > (and any such lack), and this would, in a roundabout way, compel the > inclusion of the doubly-negated entities in the original space.
If I interpret this correctly, I think I understand that what Fauconnier says is rather like what Matt said, namely that the negative marker is a sort of agreement marker.
> Ugh, that was horrible to write! And I suspect, awkward to process,
Indeed, yes. This concept of 'spaces' reminds me a lot of my conceptual model of namespaces in, say, C++... I wonder when the first object-oriented theory of language will appear, since we've already had a functional theory of language :-).
> which is why double negatives which behave "illogically" (i.e. do not > turn into positives) are so common in natural languages. It's just > easier.
I've never bought into the notion that a linguistic utterance was in any way like doing sums ;-). -- In summary, I think that the obligatory negating of verbs used with subjects negated by some form of <-tau> NEG is a matter of agreement marker. The conceptual explanation behind this phenomenon is harder to find, and while I know what the Charyan people think of it, I'm not sure they are quite right, either. A few gratuitous example sentences: di luan do desh luan do *turantos luan do 2sMGH love 1sMGH everyone love 1sMGH nobody love 1sMGH You love me Everyone loves me Nobody loves me di tau.luan do ?desh tau.luan do turantos tau.luan do 2sMGH 1sMGH everyone 1sMGH nobody 1sMGH you don't love mei Everyone doesn't love me Nobody loves me di taluan do desh taluan do turantos tau.taluan do 2sMGH hate 1sMGH everyone hate 1sMGH nobody NEG.hate 1sMGH You hate me Everyone hates me Nobody hates me Thanks a lot to everyone who helped me straighten this out! Boudewijn Rempt |