Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 21:12:05 -0500

From: "Jeutonne P. Brewer" jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]HAMLET.UNCG.EDU

Subject: Re: Double negatives (was one as a pronoun?)

David Pass,

Of course, stating that "language is language" does not claim that

language is unchanging. I can['t imagine where you got that idea

from the messages that were posted.

We certainly have problems in formal linguistics in describing

semantics. Semiotics has problems also. But a formal syllogism

has even more difficulty in explaining how people express meaning

(as influenced by world view, age, gender, etc.). The double

negatives with which this discussion started illustrate the point.

To explain double negatives, you have to take into account

historical change, social attitudes (because for some reason

they went out of fashion), situation (when it is all right to

use double negatives and when not), that is, when and how

speakers and writers vary in their use of a given construction.

I think it was Sapir who wrote that "all grammars leak."

It is more appropriate to think of language as systematic.

Whether or not a statement is logical is a judgment that is made

after the statement is made rather than some kind of organizing

principle or basic aspect of language.

Jeutonne Brewer