Double Negative.

Hello everybody again,


Continuing with my studies of Indo-European languages, I would like to ask you in which of the Indo-European languages (i.e. any language that derives from the following branches Albanian, Anatolian, (extinct), Armenian, Balto-Slavic (Baltic and Slavic), Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic (Greek), Indo-Iranian (Iranian and Indo-Aryan), Italic (includes Romance), Messapic (extinct), Thracian (extinct), Tocharian (extinct)) it is possible to negate twice in a sentence.


In English you cannot negate twice in one sentence, for example:


I do not have any time,


I have no time.

But you cannot say

I do not have no time.


In Swedish it is the same thing:


Jag vet ingenting (I know nothing)




Jag vet inte något (I do not know something) 


But you cannot say


Jag vet inte ingenting. (I do not know nothing)


But in Spanish you can do it.


No tengo nada de tiempo, (I do not have no time)


In Russian


Я ничего не знаю (I do not know nothing).


In Italian


Non capisco niente (I do not understand nothing).


Could you please tell me how many other languages (that you know of), from the Indo-European family, can do the same? Thanks in advance.

May 22, 2014 5:25 AM
Comments · 35

In Serbian, and I'm sure this covers Croatian and Bosnian, double negations are the norm. Most of the time, the offical and only way to say something is with double negative. Sometimes, it is used only to emphasize. I have browsed some online forums first to get some ideas and examples.

Serbian (<em>literal</em>) translation

Ne znam ništa (<em>I don't know nothing</em>) I don't know anything
Neću ništa (<em>I don't want nothing</em>) I don't want anything
Ne razumem ništa (<em>I don't understand nothing</em>) I don't understand anything
Nikada nije bio tamo (<em>Never he wasn't there</em>) He was never there
Ne vodi nigde (<em>It doesn't lead nowhere</em>) It doesn't lead anywhere / It leads/goes nowhere
Ne veruj nikome (<em>Don't trust nobody</em>) Don't trust anyone / Trust noone
Nisam nezahvalan (<em>I am not ungrateful</em>) - [This is used for emphasis, same as in English]
Nisam video nikoga (<em>I haven't seen nobody</em>) I haven't seen anyone
Nigde nema nikoga (<em>Nowhere isn't nobody</em>) There isn't anybody anywhere [This is like a triple negation]


May 26, 2014

To the best of my understanding & knowledge it is not possible to negate twice in Hindi.

May 22, 2014

Looking at this list, it's the English distinction with "<em>any-</em>" words that make all the difference and avoid double negation. In Serbian those words are usually two separate words that translate more like whatever, whoever and wherever:
<em>nothing / anything</em> = ništa / bilo šta
<em>nobody / anybody</em> = niko / bilo ko
<em>nowhere / anywhere</em> = nigde / bilo gde


I've found an interesting post where someone explains how the double negation came together by using these two examples:
1a) Nema ikog (<em>There isn't anyone</em>) - 1b) Ima nikog (<em>There is noone</em>)
2a) Ništa zna (<em>He knows nothing</em>) - 2b) Sve ne zna (<em>He doesn't know everything</em>)

Both examples in each permutation have one subject or verb that is crucial from which the rest of the sentence and meaning can be correctly assumed. In 1a it is "nema / isn't", in 1b it is "nikog / noone", in 2a it's "ništa / nothing" and in 2b "ne zna/ doesn't know". He concludes that "in Serbian there is no logical double negation but a phrase which came together by combining two simple logical and mutually supportive negations."



May 26, 2014

Nuryanur, in your example there is one negative particle "не" and then three negative nouns (though, it is still argued whether ни as a prefix is really negative. The sentence could perfectly be without any of the three or with any of the three nouns and the sentence is still possible. I do not understand what is it that you want me to say about it.

May 22, 2014

Nacir, what language are you referring to? If you are referring to English, I know it is possible to do that, I want to stick to the structure "Subject + negative particle/negative verb + negative/neutral noun", and compare that sole structure in different languages of the Indo-European family.

May 22, 2014
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