Print

Print


From:    # 1 <[log in to unmask]>
> I was asking myself if a language needs a lot of levels of negativity
> [...] "I will can want to have been eaten"
> It's a little weird but it's grammatical (as much I know, and if not
> just follow my toughts it will be ok)

It's not grammatical English, but as a rough thought experiment it's
fine. ("Can" is lexically aberrant in lacking a base form which is
selected by "will", making "will can" impossible.  Instead English
speakers must say "will be able to".)

> to make the sentence negative, each or some of the auxiliaries may be
> negative by adding "not" after it, depending of each tense, aspect, mood, or
> voice you want to say negative
>
> I will not can want to have been eaten
> I will can not want to have been eaten
> I will can want not to have been eaten
> I will can want to have not been eaten
> I will can want to have been not eaten

This is the phenomenon that semanticists refer to as "scope":
operators such as negation and quantifiers like "many", "some",
etc., provide truth-conditionally different readings
depending on which phrasal constituents fall under the scope of
the operator.  Thus in "many arrows didn't hit the target", there
are at least two readings:  (1) at least one arrow hit the target,
while others did not [where "many" outscopes "not"] (2) in fact no
arrows hit the target, and the cardinality of the arrows not hitting
the target is large [where "not" outscopes "many"].  IIRC, there
should be at least n! readings for n operators, although
usually many or most of the readings will be pragmatically weird or
impossible in the real world.

> So I ask that question: does a language has to have a lot of levels to make
> a sentence negative or may it be possible to make the whole sentence
> negative?

This is actually a somewhat complicated question about which I am
only partially competent.  I think the answer is that it depends on
whether you're speaking about negation as a syntactic process, or
as a semantic process.  E.g. in English, it is commonly assumed that
the negation suffix _n't_ must attach to an auxilliary verb; if there
is none, one must be supplied in the form of "do".

 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637