A'alaa AlMajnouni

Meaning and Logic: A Cross-cultural paper on the Logic of English and Arabic Double Negative Functions

In My Research Papers & Essays on February 12, 2011 at 8:25 am

A 3 pages length paper on a cross cultural Semantic grammars,  the professor asked us to limit the scope of the study on only one filed of Linguistics,  so i did not use any phonological transcriptions or PS rules in order to elaborate. wishing its helpful! = )


Under logical correspondence, Languages have various ways to express Meanings. Semantics studies the linguistic meaning of morphemes, words, phrases and sentences whereas Logic is the science of clear thinking and correct reasoning. It is used to determine the relations between statements, and to obtain conclusions from true statements (Zanuttini, Campos, et al., 2006). Moreover AlKuhli provides that reasoning principles depend heavily on meaning and thus, semantics and logic are strongly related (2002). The purpose of this paper is to perceive certain aspect of how meaning and logic are interrelated through ‘Negators’ and the aspect of using ‘doubled negation’ in English grammar, besides its functioning with Arabic Standard Grammar. By following the universal logical rule of [not -(not-p) = p] a two negatives are used in one sentence, the negatives are understood to cancel one another and produce a weakened affirmative (Exell, 1998).

Language universality comprises some words or expressions that cannot be referring expression – RE[1] or predicating expression– PE[2]. Words like (and, or, but, if, all, some and not) cannot be RE’s nor PE’s so they are called ‘Logical words’, AlKuhli (2002). To stop at a fact that all languages have logical words and all then have negation forms. Negators in English are mainly (not, never, no) and some morphemes are used to negate by opposition. However, The main focus derived to the term of Double Negative and it’s functioning in English standard and nonstandard Grammar with an application to Arabic Grammar as a cross-linguistical valid appliance rule. Since the logic of Negators is a universal aspect yet the usage of duality can be applied to some languages and not to others. As English double negatives rule cancel one another and produce an affirmative sense or makes stronger negative, the Arabic Grammar has sort of functional similarities.

In Standard English[3], Prof. J. L. Austin conducted in a lecture of Oxford (1990) that a double negative makes a positive, but none in which a double positive makes a negative. Yet, Robert Lowth observed first in 1762, the validity of a double negative occurrence with two forms of negation in the same clause. For instance, “I do not disagree” could mean, “I certainly agree” and “I didn’t see nothing,” similar to the meaning of “I saw something”, also “she is not unattractive” does not mean “she is ugly”. And as a logical application of the rule [not -(not-p) = p] is explained on ‘this lady is attractive.’

P = this lady is attractive.

Not-P = this lady is not an attractive.

Not- (Not-P)=It is not true that this lady is not an attractive=this lady is attractive= positive.

To Arabic standard Grammar, this rule is a valid application since Arabic Grammarians already have negations’ logic within the language, for instance;

P= [Asstatee’ ann aqool alhaq]                    “ I can say the truth”

Not- P= [La Asstate’e ann aqool alhaq]         “ I cannot say the truth”

Not-(Not-P)= [La Asstate’e ann La aqool Alhaq] “I cannot to not say the truth”

The out-coming result of the example shows how the Arabic negator [La] is to negate the 1st action and the repetition of [La] again is to negate the 2nd action that leads to a result of an affirmative phrase.

However the usage differs when it comes to Non-standard English where the rule of double negative is to produce emphasis of stronger negative. For example “I won’t not disappoint you” is the same, as “I won’t disappoint you” because here the use of one negative is enough to convey the meaning yet the other ‘not’ is to emphasize. This rule also is applicable to Arabic Standard Grammar. By using the repetitious insertion of precluded Not (Maa Alnafeia) which refers to the English meaning ‘To Not’, like [Maa maa zied Qadem] explained under the same previous logical rule;

P= [Zaid Qadem]         “Zaid is coming”

Not- P= [Ma Zaid Qadem]            “ Zaid is not coming”

Not-(Not-P)= [Ma Ma Zaid Qadem]                                 “ Zaid doesn’t not coming”

Therefore Arabic Grammarians set more rules over double negative forms where the usage of double Negators is not an obligation. By negating the Negators in the same clause; will result to wither positive statement or opposition.  Some forms of the rule are in (1) Condemnational Interrogation within a context of negation (Al-Estefham Al-Enkari); when a negative phrase is preceded by interrogation to disapprove, it makes an affirmative concept. This form mostly founded in Qur’anic verses as this translated verse “Is not God enough for His servant?” (The Cliques, 36), and its transliteration [Alys Allah Bekafn Abdh?] logically leads to meaning ‘God is the whole sufficient’. (2) The function of the preposition ‘about to do’ is called the rule of [Khada] in Arabic Grammar. It has many functions, though one of them is to negate its phrase in order to produce a positive. For instance [Khada Ahmad ann yamoot] means “Ahmad was about to die” by using the preposition about to in English gives the same meaning in Arabic that ‘he was about to die yet the result he did not’. Moreover, Arabic grammar has another negation form (3) by [ghair] which is similarly in meaning to English ‘Not’, yet Arabic [ghair] doesn’t negate fully but it does give a negation or opposite context. As [hatha Amrun ghairu saheeh] could possibly mean [Amrun khathib] translated to ‘this is not untrue’ could mean ‘true’.

Hence the Negators Logic of two negative in one phrase unified with meaning to produce an understandable phrase to both hearers/readers. Semantics meaning depends on rules of Logic in order to identify exactly the meaning of the context and to avoid ambiguity.

[1] Is any NP, or surrogate for NP whose function in a text, its to “pick out” an individual person, place, object, or a set of persons, places, objects, etc.

[2] is an expression that evaluates to true or false

[3] Refers to whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in an Anglophone country, it encompasses grammar, vocabulary, and spelling.



I lost this part somewhere in my files, so its updated!


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