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Lecture 5 Negatives and questions Zhong Caishun
Negation is the operation of changing a sentence or other unit into its negative form.
Negative word A word which has the function of negating the meaning of a clause or sentence. The most important negative word is not, which is sometimes called a negative particle. The normal form of negation in English is to add not (or its contracted form -n’t) after the operator (that is, after the first auxiliary verb or the finite verb be): positive negative I am feeling tired I am not feeling tired. You could help her You couldn’t help her. When the positive sentence has no operator, do is used as a dummy operator to form the negative: Sue likes jogging ~ Sue doesn’t like jogging.
For some operators there is no negative contraction (for example, may not, am not) and so the full form has to be used. To negate infinitives and gerunds, we simply put not before them. He pretended not to see us. I enjoyed not going to school for a few days. Other negative words include no (determiner or response form); none, nobody, no one, nothing (pronouns); never, nowhere (adverbs). The functions of these are similar to that of not: Nobody was asleep = Everyone was not asleep. The class does not have a teacher.=The class has no teacher. When a negative word comes later than the subject of the sentence, it can usually be replaced by not with a non-assertive word such as any, anyone, ever: I have never learned to ski = I haven’t ever learned to ski. We can use no with both singular and plural nouns or a gerund to emphasize the negative. E.g. No dogs. No parking. No talking in the class. This is an alternative way to say ‘… is/are not allowed/permitted’. In informal situation, we use Don’t + verb rather than No +gerund.
No can modify comparative. Some people eat what they like and get no fatter. no+comparative adjectives +than. When we replace no with not, we shall add any before the comparative adjectives. Compare He was no wiser than her. He was not wiser than her. We should leave no later than 8:00. we shouldn’t leave any later than 8:00. We use not rather than no in reduced negatives, before the indefinite article a/an and before quantifiers such as all or a lot. Do you want to keep these boxes or not? If not, I’ll just throw them out. Not a single drop of blood was spilt. Not all Americans are rich.
Negation with no may have different implications than verb negation with not. He is not a teacher. He is no teacher. That was not an accident. That was no accident.(intention) He is not a friend of yours. He is no friend of yours.(complaining)
He has no small reputation as an artist. Note: A/the/his not small reputation (Common) A/the/his not small reputation (scarce )
He has no small chance of success. He has no smallest chance of success.
No man can do it. No one can do it. No one man can do it.
I don’t think he is clever. No more he is, no more is his brother.
None is not used as the subject alone except in some old sayings. But we can use no one or nobody. No one/nobody knows about it.
Negation may also be operated on adjectives, and prepositions. We are unaware of any hostility. They were unwilling to accept our help. I'm against going out anywhere tonight. They decided to leave without telling any of their friends. There are still other semi-negatives which do not convey an exclusive sense. They include few, little, scarcely, rarely, hardly and so on. In making a sentence or clause negative, we sometimes have to make other changes. For example, it is common to replace some by any when it follows not. We saw some rare birds. We didn’t see any rare birds. I saw nobody. [= I didn't see anybody.] Have you never been to London? [= Haven't you ever been to London?]
This means that quantifiers such as any, anyone, anything (so-called any-words) tend to be used in negatives, in contrast to some, someone, something, and so on. Compare: I’ve watched some good games recently. (assertive) Have you watched any good games recently? (non-assertive) I haven’t watched any good games recently. (non-assertive) The rule which replaces some by any and so forth is not absolute. There are, in fact, ‘assertive questions’ which contain words like some: Have you watched some good games recently? (These are ‘loaded questions’ expecting a positive reply.)
Transferred negation The placement of the negative word not/n’t in a main clause, whereas logically speaking it belongs to a subordinate clause: I don’t suppose that Jill remembered the tickets. Here not appears to negate the supposing rather than the remembering. But in fact, we understand the sentence to express a supposition that Jill didn’t remember the tickets. Another construction favouring transferred negation is seem/appear followed by a to-infinitive: He didn’t seem to notice is equivalent to He seemed not to notice or It seemed that he didn’t notice. The alleged rule of transferred negation operates only when the verb in the higher clause is one of a very limited set, which includes think, believe, suppose, guess, and want.
Inversion after negative words and phrases When a clause consists of an introductory negative adverb or adverbial phrase, we shall invert the position of subject and the auxiliary verb. I have never heard such nonsense/Never have I heard such nonsense. Besides never, nowhere, rarely, seldom, hardly, neither, nor and so on also require inversion when taking the initial position. Seldom had I seen such confusion. We also use inversion after negative phrases with no and not in front position: At no time were the children in danger. Under no circumstances should you go. Not until then did I realise what she meant. Not only is Mark single, but he is also rich. To no one will they admit their guilt.
Scope of negation Scope of negation refers to the stretch of language over which the negative item has a semantic influence. The scope of the negation normally extends from the negative item itself to the end of the clause, but it is not always in this case. The scope of negation can sometimes be a critical fact in interpreting the meaning of a clause. I wasn't listening all the time. My sister did not go because she wanted to see Bob.
Sentence types There are four major types of sentences: 1. Declaratives (or declarative sentences) She was attracted to an open-air job. The new proposals have galvanized the normally disparate community into a potent fighting force. 2. Interrogatives (or interrogative sentences) Do you have internet access at home? Where will you be going for your holiday? 3. Imperatives (or imperative sentences) Open the door for me. Take a seat. 4. Exclamatives (or exclamative sentences) How well you look! What a good friend you are! They correspond in general to four major uses: 1. Statements are used chiefly to convey information. 2. Questions are used chiefly to request information. 3. Directives are used chiefly to request action. 4. Exclamations are used chiefly to express strong feeling.
There are quite a few mismatches between the function and form. For instance, Will you shut the door is interrogative in form, but a command in function You’re not leaving? is declarative in form, but a question in function Officers will report to me is declarative in form, but a command in function
Question Question is a type of sentence or clause which has an ‘information gap’ (for example, in When did you post the letters? the information gap is the time at which the stated event occurred). Therefore a question is typically interpreted as requesting information from another person. (But there are also questions – for example, rhetorical questions – which do not have this function.)
Interrogative Questions are grammatically realized through INTERROGATIVES which are sentences formally marked in one of two ways: (i) yes-no interrogatives the operator is placed in front of the subject: Did Pauline give Tom a digital watch for his birthday?
(ii) alternative interrogative a particular type of yes-no interrogative which offers two or more alternative possibilities: Is the kitten male or female? Would you like orange juice, grapefruit juice or tomato juice? Unlike yes-no questions, alternative questions normally end with a falling intonation contour.
(iii) wh-interrogatives An interrogative wh-element precedes the operator and subject: What did Pauline give Tom for his birthday? When the wh-word is (the first word of) a prepositional complement as in what are you keen on?, there is a choice between a formal and informal construction. The formal construction places the preposition at the beginning of the clause, whereas the informal construction leaves it ‘stranded’ at the end: On what has he been working? (formal) What has he been working on? (informal) Question words: What, who, when, where, why, which, how, whatever, whoever, whenever, wherever, whichever, however how long, how often, how much, how many, how far Note: what and which can be both used before nouns or as pronouns. We use what when we think there is an unlimited number of possible answers and which when we think there is a limited number. What/which bus should I take? We can use which (not what) before one or ones. We can also use which of plus determiners and pronouns. There are a lot of cups of tea here. Which one in mine? Which of these books have read? She has four sons. Which of them is a scientist? We use who after a preposition: For whom did you work
(iv) tag question A short question which is added after a statement, to elicit a confirming response from the hearer, for example... aren’t you?,... isn’t she?,... were they? English has a broad range of tag questions, whose choice depends on the grammatical form of the statement. The rules for forming the most common type of tag questions are: (a) Copy the operator of the statement (using the non-contracted form), and change it to negative if positive or to positive if negative: She’s pretty straightforward, isn’t she? You haven’t gained that much weight, have you? (b) If there is no operator, use the positive or negative form of the ‘dummy auxiliary’ do: She likes sugar in her coffee, doesn’t she? The photos came out well, didn’t they? (c) If the subject of the statement is a personal pronoun, copy it and place it after the operator in the tag question: We’ve met before, haven’t we? (d) If the subject of the statement is not a personal pronoun, replace it in the tag question by the personal pronoun which matches its referent (in number, person, case and gender): The journey won’t take long, will it?
(e) If the statements contains negatives other than not, the tag question can be still in positive form: No dogs are permitted here, are they? Under no circumstances will she return here, will she? They scarcely seem to care, do they? They hardly have any friends, do they? But pay attention to the following clauses in which the negative is applied to the two clauses not the statement alone: Not long ago, they lived in Montreal, didn't they? Not surprisingly, he is on a diet, isn't he? (f) we use modals in tags after imperatives for requests or proposals. Don’t say anything will you? Pass me that knife, could you? Let’s leave, shall we? (g) we can use a positive tag after a positive sentence when we want to confirm information: That’s your new car, is it? There are other forms of tag question in English, including such invariant forms as right? huh? and eh? (h) when the statement is a ‘there+be’ structure, the operator shall be followed by there in the tag question. There is a cat on the mat, isn’t there? There are two cats on the mat, aren’t there?
(v) Negative question Negative questions usually begin with negative forms of be, do, have or a modal. E.g. Aren’t those books mine? Doesn’t he speak any English? Hasn’t the lecture finished yet? Can’t you open the window? Note: when we answer negative yes-no questions, we use Yes to say the positive is true and No to say the negative is true. --Aren’t they French? --Yes, they are. Negative yes-no questions can be used for seeking confirmation or expressing surprise. Isn’t July 4th a big American holiday? Haven’t you ever seen snow? Questions beginning with “why don’t you…?” or “why not…? are used for offers or suggestions. Why don’t you come with us?
The position of the negative particle varies according to whether the full or enclitic negative particle is used; n't precedes the subject, whereas not generally follows it: Haven’t you eaten meat? Have you never eaten meat? Didn’t he understand the text? Did he not understand the text? The position of the negative particle varies according to whether the full or enclitic negative particle is used; n't precedes the subject, whereas not generally follows it:
Some speakers accept a third construction, also rather formal, in which the full particle is in the same position as the enclitic: Is not history a social science? This construction is especially likely in formal contexts where the subject is lengthy: Does not everything we see about us testify to the power of Divine Providence?
The two kinds of negation are sometimes associated with different meanings, the former being an instance of predication negation: Had we better not go? ['Would it be advisable if we didn't go?'] Hadn't we better go? ['I think we had better go; don't you agree?] The question with not following the first word, is typically used in 'second instance' contexts (especially in negative questions) where an earlier statement or assumption is being challenged: A: Wouldn't you rather live in the country? B: No, I would not. I'd rather live here.
(vi) Reported interrogatives Reported interrogatives begin with wh-words without subject-operator inversion. Reported yes-no and alternative questions begin with whether (If can replace whether here.) They asked her whether/if the kitten was male or female. Maria wondered whether/if he was waving or drowning.
(vii) questions inside questions We can put a yes/no question asking what people think or say: Do you think something is wrong?—what do you think is wrong? In this case, we use question word order in the yes-no question, not in the wh-question. When does he believe the war will end?
(viii) statement as question Confirmation seeking, express surprise, ask for classification Mr Jones is your teacher? (ix) Reduced questions Wh-word alone or short phrases What? Why me? How about a cup of tea?
Functions of questions According to the information nature the questions seek, they can be information seeking and confirmation seeking. They roughly correspond with wh-questions and alternative questions respectively. Besides them, there are also three particular functions of question: (i) Echo question A question which repeats a previous utterance and amounts to a request for the repetition of that utterance (or at least of part of it). We use echo questions either because we did not fully hear or understand what was said, or because its content is too surprising to be believed. For example: (It cost £5,000.) HOW much did it cost? (His son’s an osteopath.) His son’s a WHAT? Echo questions are usually spoken with a rising intonation, and with a strong emphasis on the wh-word (what, who, how and so on).
(ii) Exclamatory question A kind of yes-no question having the force of an exclamation. Exclamatory questions are often negative in form and are spoken with falling intonation rather than with the rising intonation associated with ordinary yes-no questions: Isn’t this fun! or (of someone else’s children) Haven’t they grown! (iii) rhetorical question A question which does not seek information, but rather implies that the answer is self-evident. Who can say what will happen? has the effect of a forceful statement: ‘No one can say what will happen.’