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Double negation in English

Alling

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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"?
 
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MikesTooLz

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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"?

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.
 

gentlefury

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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.
 

Hasty

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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......
 
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Alling

Alling

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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.
 
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iDharma

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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.

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.
 
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Alling

Alling

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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.
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. :)
 

iDharma

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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.:)

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
 
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Alling

Alling

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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
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.
 

iPadCharlie

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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!
 

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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
 

iDharma

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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."

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.
 

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.
 

gentlefury

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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.
 

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