Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 09:13:33 -0500
From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU
Subject: Re: Not a comment not about multiple negation in English
I agree that double (or multiple) negation seldom follows simple math rules
in English, but I wonder about the emphatic function you assign it. It
seems to me that in most varieties of English which regularly employ it,
multiple negation does not emphasize the negation at all. It is simply an
obligatory attachment of a negator to the AUX and to every indefinite of
the clause (and in some varieties, other clauses).
Didn't nobody never mess with us kids from New Albany.
is not an 'emphatic' form of
Nobody ever messed with us kids from New Albany.
It is simply the 'normal' assignment of negation (with some accomnying
adjustments, AUX-fronting, for example) in that variety. If you wanted
emphatic qualities for that string, stress would do the trick,
Didn't NObody never...
Didn't nobody NEver..
DInIS (a native speaker of that variety) Preston
And of course Modern English double (and triple, and quadruple,...)
negation also emphasizes the negative; it does not make the sentence
meaning positive, despite the prescriptions of our Miss Fidditch grade
school teachers. Language ain't mathematics!
Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]pilot.msu.edu