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Double negation in English

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Alling, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    iPadforums might not be dedicated to discussing linguistics, but I think you guys can answer my questions.

    I've always wondered why many, if not all, English-speaking people use double negations in cases where Swedish-speaking people only use one negation.

    Examples, negations marked in red:

    English: "I didn't do nothing!"
    Swedish: "I did nothing!" or "I didn't do anything!"

    English: "I've never killed no one!"
    Swedish: "I've never killed anyone!"

    To me, the English way of saying it seems to mean that the person actually DID something or DID kill someone. Why isn't "I didn't do anything!" and "I've never killed anyone!" the common way to defend one's innocence?

    Does it sound strange to say "I didn't do anything?" Does it mean something else?

    Is there a difference between British and American English?


    By the way, why do English-speaking people usually put punctuation marks such as the blue question mark inside the quotation mark? It does not belong to the quotation. And that's the case in English books too. Swedish people would write: Does it sound strange to say "I didn't do anything"?
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
  2. MikesTooLz
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    MikesTooLz Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Your so called Swedish way of saying it is the proper way of speaking and i'm an english speaking person. In fact English is the only spoken language that I know. I think the problem is just that there are a lot of english speaking idiots.
  3. gentlefury
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    gentlefury iPad Guru

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    Are you reading literature or blogs? Proper English is hard to find in America since most people are so uneducated, but the things you are describing are completely improper.

    Next you're going to ask why in English we spell your as ur and was as wuz...you can't judge an entire language based on thuggish Internet laziness. Go read a book.
  4. Hasty
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    Hasty iPad Ninja

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    The trouble with all languages is that they reflect the society they exist in.
    All get their spelling and pronunciation corrupted by usage and the wider the usage the more corruption.....

    "I didn't do nothing " and "I've never killed no one!" are just BAD.

    So don't use either again or I will have to speak to you harshly......
  5. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    Hey ... chill out. I'm not an expert. I've heard this "didn't do nothing" in many "real" movies. I couldn't know it's wrong for sure.

    And I'm completely aware of "ur" and "wuz" being Internet slang, you don't have to tell me that. :)

    Thanks for your feedback. I am glad to know what's really correct. :)


    How about the punctuation, then? Punctuation marks are put inside quotation marks at least in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is the only book I've read in English (on my iPad, so I'm not completely off-topic), and in our English classbooks.

    I'll give you a simple example:
    English: "Ahem," said Dumbledore.
    Swedish: "Ahem", said Dumbledore.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
  6. iDharma
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    iDharma iPF Novice

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    In formal English usage, the punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. Most periodicals, newspapers and books (all of which are, theoretically, edited by people versed in proper grammar) will use this manner of punctuation.

    Going back to the original query, many (if not most) languages have both formal rules of grammar/usage on the one hand, and colloquialisms on the other. The double negative constructions the OP references are heard in colloquial English, but are not proper in standard (formal or proper) written or spoken English. Although I'm not an expert on Swedish, this is true in most languages, including the ones I'm more familiar with (English, Spanish and French), so I would expect it to be true of Swedish.

    Also keep in mind that many languages have dialects. Speakers of different dialects of a language can usually understand each other (i.e. are mutually intelligible) when the speakers are using the formal/standard vocabulary and grammar of the language, but when they switch to colloquial usage (slang), they may not understand each other as well. This would be true, for example, if a person from rural Alabama (USA) conversed with a Cockney from London's East End. If each used his familiar slang, they would most likely be unable to communicate. But if each attempted to speak using "proper" (standard) English, they would probably understand each other. I bet the same is true if a Swedish speaker from Skåne tried speaking with someone from the Åland Islands.

    I hope that helps.
  7. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    It does. Thanks for being polite and patient. :)

    You are right! I don't know how they speak on the Åland Islands, but I, who live near Gothenburg, less than 100 miles from Skåne, can hardly understand them. Though, most Swedish people would understand me, but they'd think I have a funny dialect.

    Imagining a farmer from Alabama trying to speak to an English gentleman makes me smile. :)
  8. iDharma
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    iDharma iPF Novice

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    My husband's family is from Denmark (Slagelse, in Sjelland). I am told that standard Danish and standard Swedish are close enough that Danes from Sjelland and Swedes from Malmö can understand each other. Which makes me think that Swedish and Danish are perhaps really dialects as opposed to their own languages :D
  9. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    Well ... standard Danish and standard Swedish are not the same. I can understand written Danish, but spoken Danish is like "bluewblawbler" to me. Danes understand Swedish better than Swedish understand Danish, I can tell you for sure. In Sweden we use to pull jokes like "Danish is when you try to speak Swedish with porridge in your mouth."

    But you're right about one thing: Swedes from Malmö (in Skåne) understand Danish. Skånska (Swedish dialect spoken in Skåne) is closely related to Danish, as Skåne has been ruled by Denmark for several centuries.
  10. iPadCharlie
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    iPadCharlie iPad Super Guru

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    You know they say that if we had not won the revolution in 1776, we would all be speaking English right now!
  11. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    Um ... you Americans do speak English ... do you mean everyone in the entire world? Even Sweden? :p
  12. CMFox
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    I'm not sure why you received so many snarky replies, as your question is a fair one. American English is very fluid & full of slang. The double negative is more slang and would usually be attributed to someone with less education. But we all use it at times. As to our lazy Internet spelling, I am guilty of that. Sometimes its laziness, sometimes its a rebellion against our convoluted spelling rules.

    I think rude replies are worse then double negatives or stoopid spellings.:)

    CM
  13. iDharma
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    iDharma iPF Novice

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    LOL - The name of that classic Danish porridge ("rødgrød med fløde") sounds like the speaker has a big wad of it in their mouth when they're saying it. All of my attempts to learn some Danish have failed miserably. I enunciate too much to speak good dansk.
  14. Hasty
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    "snarky replies"
    Oh dear, that wasn't a rude reply, you misinterpreted my response.
    It was an obviously failed attempt at english humour......
    Two nations still divided by the same language. We need another revolution.

    Sadly written language is sometimes inadequate.
    Communications are not just content, but contain tone, gestures and facial expression as well.
    I wonder if there is a symbolic notation like choreography which could express the totality.......not a comms specialist so don't know.

    Double negatives are just a very lazy way of speaking and generally frowned upon by purists.
  15. gentlefury
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    gentlefury iPad Guru

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    If you took anything as snarky than you are being a bit sensitive. My reply was saying that if you are only watching movies about gangs and reading Internet forums than yes you would that America is full of mentally handicapped....but if you read a book or w newspaper you may get a different perspective.
  16. iDharma
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    iDharma iPF Novice

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    Actually, the pronunciation used in North America today more closely resembles Elizabethan English than does Standard (British) English pronunciation. This is because the Great Vowel Shift resulted in dramatic changes in the way people in southern England speak.

    But we Yanks continue to let our British cousins think theirs is the authentic "Queen's English"—just don't ask which Queen... :D {snark}
  17. CMFox
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    I wasn't referring to your reply. I caught the humor. :)
  18. Alling
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    Alling iPF Novice

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    And to make sure no one thinks I'm sad ... I'm not. I haven't been since I started the thread. :)

    Once when my friends came home from Denmark after having been on a soccer camp, they talked about the Danes saying rødgrød med fløde and no one knew what it meant or anything. We just thought it sounded so damn funny and awful! :)


    I still haven't got any answer on my question about putting punctuation marks inside quotation marks. Somebody?
  19. The Alternative
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    The Alternative iPad Junkie

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    This will answer your question...
    Quotation Marks | Punctuation Rules

    By the way, Alling, I have to say that your command of English is better than some Americans that I know. Please don't let the snarky comments keep you from posting. I've enjoyed your topic and since it's in the "Anything Goes" bucket you have every right to post your views.
  20. iDharma
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    iDharma iPF Novice

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    Hey, silly, I answered you. Go back to my original response to you.

    (Sheesh.)

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is never narc'd on nobody a double negative