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?)
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.