Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 12:44:01 -0500 From: Alan Baragona Subject: Re: Double negatives (was one as a pronoun?) Norman Roberts wrote: > > >Dear Ms. Flannigan, > > True. Language is not math; however, it is logical. May I make > >reference to computational linguistics, and in particular to a journal > >article entitled "Translating Spanisn to Logic Through Logic." > > > >Dave Pass > > Can we perhaps say that language can be logical rather than asserting that > it is logical? Many of the recent messages in this thread have evoked "logic," and defenders of the double negative seem generally to be arguing that language can use them because it doesn't have to be logical. Here's another approach. Who says that double negatives are illogical in the first place? Lowth assumed they were illogical because he saw negativity in purely mathematical terms as canceling each other out. But if you recognize that, in terms of the logic of language (not its illogic), negativity is additive, then it becomes perfectly logical to make something more negative by piling on the negative words. In fact, it is Lowth and his descendants who are being illogical according to their own assumptions, for if double negatives make a positive, then triple negatives make a negative, quadruple make a positive, quintuple make a negative again, and on and on. When a childhood schoolmate of a friend of mine said "I am not neither no wet noodle," she was being perfectly grammatical according to Lowth's "logic," but grammarians who think they're rigorously applying Lowth's misguided prescriptivism would tell that child she was ungrammatical. Alan