Since I already know that language does not necessarily follows mathematical logic (which of course is a man made system of rules - it's not absolute) I want to know if there are languages with triple or quadruple negation?

I know that the question may sound very childish but I'm trying to grasp the concept in my mind about talking in general and I want to know how far a language can go. I'm going to post a different question about that (about the extremes in speaking)


  • Single negation: "Don't you ever talk like that to me again"
  • Double negation: "Don't you never talk like that to me again"
  • Triple negation: "Don't you never silence like that to me again" or "Don't you never talk like that to me never"
  • Quadruple negation: "Don't you never silence like that to me never"
  • Chaucer "Certis nay. for þat þing nys neyþer foule ne worþi to ben dispised." but this is still only two I think, even if it looks like four. – Hugh Dec 18 '15 at 21:13
  • Paratactic: "Never, never, never, never, never." Is Lear breaking into into trochaics here? Similarly, colloquial, "Definitely not, no, never!" – Hugh Dec 18 '15 at 21:23
  • A nice list ot languages which multiple negative can be found in this wikipedia artice - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_negative – shabunc Dec 18 '15 at 21:57
  • Silence is not a negative! – curiousdannii Dec 21 '15 at 6:03

Double negation in languages follows math rules just fine, the better question is what set of math rules get followed, and that depends on the language.

Negative concord: -(x + y + z) = -x - y - z
No negative concord: -(x · y · z) = -x · y · z; but -x · -y · z = x · y · z

Standard English doesn't have negative concord, so having two negatives cancels things out. But Asturian (like many dialects of English) does, and so there is no cancelation. There's nothing wrong in Asturian saying, for instance (bold words in negative)

Naide nunca nun fai denguna cosa (or nada) con naide
No one ever does anything with anyone
Lit: No one never doesn't do not a thing (or nothing) with no one

While many people use the term double negative to describe languages that require multiple words to be negative without canceling the meaning, really, double negative just describes the presence of two negative words which can happen in both types of languages. The better term to use is negative concord to describe agreement amongst certain words to all be negative or not because that describes what's going on under the surface. Once you have negative concord, you can have a wide number of elements that are negative without changing the meaning and thus getting even tredecuple negation, just like gender agreement in most languages: change one noun and all the adjectives go with it.

| improve this answer | |
  • It's quite understandable that Yordan might be confusing the terms, since centuries of English pedagogues have confused the concepts (not the terms, since "negative concord" is little known outside grammatical theory.) – Colin Fine Dec 18 '15 at 21:27
  • @ColinFine that's true. On rereading I realize my tone wasn't quite what I intended. Editing is a pain in mobile, but I'm reword that when I'm at a desktop – user0721090601 Dec 18 '15 at 21:32
  • Thank you @guifa for describing me the term "negative concord". I understood your point and now I do not feel bad about talking like the other people. I feel relieve. – Yordan Dec 18 '15 at 22:32
  • The examples with x, y and z don't really show double negation, but single negation. – Adam Bittlingmayer Dec 20 '15 at 19:49
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer The example with negative concord does. You have -x (single negation), -y (double negation), and -z (triple negation), which results in a single concept (x+y+z) being negated. – user0721090601 Dec 20 '15 at 20:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.