Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 22:44:56 EST


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

Norman Roberts writes,

The double negative making an affirmative is something we

learn in school. It is not unlike other things we learn there: more

honored in the breach etc. etc. When I say "ain't got no" I mean that I

damn well don't have any; logic be hanged.

--thereby (in "not unlike other things...") illustrating the fact that 'double

negatives' do indeed sometimes yield an affirmative, and always do and did,

even in dialects and languages in which other double negatives don't 'cancel

out' but instead agree with each other. As Alan Baragona just noted in this

thread, both processes are 'logical' or even 'mathematical'. Here is a 2 1/2

century old recognition of this fact (excerpted here from a paper of mine,

"Duplex Negatio Affirmat: The Economy of Logical Double Negation", in the

Chicago Linguistic Society Parasession on Negation (1991), fn. 3):