Double negatives in english

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by Alexx, Apr 25, 2008.

  1. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    The double negative in English dats back to the ancient time of proto-indoeuropean language where it was a current way of expression. So in fact it is an archaism, the way it was originally, although a little bit differently than in today's slavic languages.

    Originally, double negation was allowed only if the negated verb preceeded the negative pronoun/adverb/whatever, but not vice versa (when the negative pronoun preceded the verb, the verb itself was not negated).

    This priciple functions in Ancient Greek:

    úk'oida údena
    (I haven't seen) (no one) = "I haven't seen anyone"/"I have seen no one"


    údena oida
    (no one) (I have seen) = "I haven't seen anyone"/"I have seen no one"

    If the verb in the second phrase is negated, the meaning is reversed:

    údena úk'oida
    (no one) (I haven't seen) = "I haven't seen *no one*"/"I did actually see someone"

    Just like in today's English, but only with proper intonation... there has to be an accent on "no one" in order to consider it to be negated negation and not simply bad grammar.

    In Czech, the negation is always double without relation to the word order (if there is not double negation, the meaning is different).
  2. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Not always, actually.

    Both single and double negation works with "žádný" and it has identical meaning. That's because the original positive adjective "žádný" evolved into negative pronoun and the double negation was thus non-productive.

    And there are other irregularities related to non-productive negations (compare "nebýt ve sváru" and "nebýt v nesváru") or to negations hidden in conjuctions (consider "ani" which unlike "aniž" calls for double negation).
  3. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    I am not aware of any single negation with word "žádný". Enlighten me...

    And yes, negative conjuctions are a very good remark :twisted:
  4. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    The most basic construction with "žádný" is not proper double negation because the pronoun "žádný" itself is an improper negation. To form the proper double negation you have to use the form "nižádný".

    "Žádný" by its original meaning stays for "desired", so the phrase "není tam žádný" actually means "the desired one is not there" (~ t. d. o. is missing) which is a single negation.

    In modern Czech both "není tam žádný" and "není tam nižádný" could be used in place of English "there is none", but the later is rarely used because the proper double negation is not productive.

    Formerly, when the original meaning of "žádný" was still in use, the double negation was productive and thus in common use. Old Czech differenciated (the example is in terms of modern Czech):

    nemá nižádného muže = she has no man/husband
    nemá žádného muže = she has no desired man = she has no lover
  5. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    Ok, I understand what you mean now, but still "žádný" today does not have but negative meaning, so it can be considered double negation (the word does not occur in any non-negative sentence as far as I am aware).
  6. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Interesting discussion, wer and Eleshar, on the word "žadný." Interestingly enough, the Russian equivalent "жадный" typically is used to mean "greedy." Still, I can see the corruption of the original meaning in the common root. Thanks for the etymology lesson!
  7. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Cognate indeed, both come from Old Slavic “жѧдати” (= to desire, to thirst) which evolved into Czech “žádat” (= to demand) and Russian “жаждать” (= to thirst). But the proper morphological equivalent of Czech “žádný” is missing in Russian:

    Czech | Polish | Ukrainian   | Russian | meaning
    žádný | żaden  | жоден/жодний | (N/A)   | none/neither
    (N/A)¹| żądny  |  (N/A)¹     | жадный  | greedy/thirsty
    ¹ As for the meaning there exists Czech equivalent “žádostivý” and Ukrainian “жадібний” and it is cognate indeed, but morphologically it is different.

    Compare also with Czech “žádaný” (= demanded).
  8. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Yesterday I unintentionally created nice example of "double" negative in czech:

    Nikdo to nikdy nijak neověřuje.
    (Nobody ever verifies it in any way, lit. Nobody never doesn't verify if in no way).

    It might look strange but it is perfectly correct czech sentence.
  9. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Nikdo nic nikdy nijak neověřuje. :D
  10. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Nikdo nic nikde nikomu nikdy nijak neověřuje. :D

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