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Double negation

Double negation is attested both in spoken and written language. Some examples are given below:

Example 1

a. Ik hie nearne gjin nocht oan
I had nothing.R no liking to
There was nothing I felt like doing
b. Dat er noait net fan God of godstsjinst rept, dat is dom
that he never not of God or religion mentions that is foolish
It is foolish that he never mentions God or religion

Double negation is frequently found with specific combinations of negative constituents and clause negation, whereas other combinations are very rare.


The following types can be found involving the quantifier of temporal negation noait never as the first element of a pair of two negative constituents:

Example 2

a. Der ûntkaam him noait neat
there missed him never nothing
He never missed anything
b. Dy leafde dy't dochs noait net stjerre koe
that love that nevertheless never not die could
That love which, nonetheless, could never die
c. Ik brûk sels noait gjin drank
I use myself never no alcohol
I never drink alcohol myself

Examples of type (a) are rare (6x in the Frisian Language Corpus), in which temporal negation is followed by bare inanimate argument negation. Examples of type (b) and (c) are frequent: the temporal negation is followed by clause negation as in (b), or by argument negation followed by overt Noun Phrase (NP) material as in (c). The first negation functions as an intensifer for clause and argument negation. This is particularly clear in the (a) example, in which the temporal negation can be left out, but not the argument negation. The temporal negation nea never is mostly confined to written language. It has the same distribution with respect to double negation as noait never.

The types of examples in (6) involve bare inanimate argument negation as the first element of double negation:

Example 3

a. Formulieren ha ik it neat net op stean
forms have I it nothing net on stand
Forms, I don't like at all
b. It wiene leave bern, neat net fervelend
it were dear children nothing not annoying
They were good children, not annoying at all
c. Hy hie neat gjin oanstriid fan selskip
he had nothing no tendency of company
He did not feel at all like having company

These examples make it clear that the first negation neat, the bare argument inanimate negation, functions as an intensifier of clause negation and noun negation.

The animate argument negation nimmen nobody can be found in the following types of examples as the first element of double negation:

Example 4

a. Mar hy doarst der tsjin nimmen neat fan útlitte
but he dared R against nobody nothing of out.let
But he did not dare tell anybody anything about it
b. It bewiis hat nimmen net leverje kinnen
the evidence has nobody not provide could
Nobody has been able to provide the evidence
c. Nimmen net kaam op it tinkbyld oft in Frysk frijsteat mooglik wie
nobody not came on the idea whether a Frisian free.state possible was
Nobody struck upon the idea whether a free Frisian state would be a possibility
d. Ik doch nimmen gjin oerlêst oan
I do nobody no inconvenience to
I don't cause anybody any inconvenience

(4a) shows that animate argument negation can be followed by bare argument negation, but the number of examples is small and they belong to older literature, dating mostly to the nineteenth or early twentieth-century. (4b) shows that animate argument can be reinforced by the second element, by clause negation. (4c) shows that animate argument negation and clause negation have optionally been reanalysed as one constituent. Examples of the (b) and (c) type are frequent. The (d) type is rare again, and the examples date back to the nineteenth or early twentieth-century.

Place negation nearne nowhere may appear as the first element of double negation in the following types of examples. Note that place negation is translated as 'nothing' in case it functions as a prepositional complement, as in the (a) example below:

Example 5

a. Ik sil de Heare net fergje en nearne net om freegje
I shall the Lord not demand and nothing.R for ask
I shall not demand things from the Lord and not ask for anything
b. Der is gjin wetter mear, nearne net kinne se sile
there is no water more nowhere not can they sail
There is no water anymore, nowhere can they sail
c. Earst hie hja nearne gjin hâldfêst hân en wie har leauwe swier op 'e proef steld.
first had she nowhere no hold had and was het belief heavily on the pest put
At first, she had not had any hold anywhere and her belief had been severely put to the test

(5a) and (5b) show that bare place negation can be intensified by a following clause negation. The case in (5b), moreover, shows that place negation and following clause negation are optionally reanalysed as one constituent. (5c) shows that bare place negation may be followed by overt noun negation. Both types are relatively frequent. There is, in addition, one nineteenth-century example of place negation followed by bare argument negation.

The negative conjunct noch nor occasionally conjoins two negative constituents in written language:

Example 6

a. Hja moatte nea noch nimmer it sjitlead út 'e hannen lizze
they should never nor never the plummet out the hands lie
They should never ever let go of the plummet
b. Fierder te wollen, nea noch nearne rêst te hawwen, oant it kommen wêze sil
further to want never nor nowhere rest to have until it come be shall
To want to go further, to not have any rest ever anywhere, until it will have arrived

This kind of language is old-fashioned, as is also signalledd by the choice of the temporal quantifiers, which belong to older language.

In addition, the preposition sûnder without may also be found with another negation, as in the following example:

Example 7

a. Sûnder boe noch ba sette er ôf
without boo nor ba set he off
He left without saying anything

Finally, it has been reported that an eastern dialect, the dialect of the eastern part of the municipality of Kollumerlân, may have double clause negation, as in the following example:

Example 8

a. Ik wol net datstû sûnder jas bûtendoar omrinst net
I want not that.you without coat outside about.walk net
I don't want you to walk about outside without your coat on

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More details can be found in Hoekstra (2004), Hoekstra (1987) and Tamminga (1963:6-7).

  • Hoekstra, Eric2004Neat gjin helemaalFriesch Dagblad11-13Taalgenoat en taalgeniet 52
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1987Frysk en AfrikaanskFriesch Dagblad25-07Taalsnipels 42
  • Tamminga, Douwe Annes1963Op 'e taelhelling. Losse trochsneden fan Frysk taellibben. IBoalsertA.J. Osinga