Critically analyse the process of negation in the English Language.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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English language clauses are negated at the word level through the inclusion of a negating adverb. Negation is the process of denying something or claiming it is incorrect or not true. Negation varies according to the requirements of the verb tense being negated as in, for example, the difference between negating the Present Simple tense (I see that. Neg: I do not see that.) and the Past Perfect Progressive tense (I had been there. Neg: I had not been there.) and the Future Perfect tense (I will have tickets. Neg: I will not have [won't have] tickets).

To negate a clause in English, it is the verb that carries the negation. Some various means of standard negation are permissible.

  1. (1) A pronoun can be substituted by the negator no: e.g., I called your phone. Neg: I called no phone.
  2. (2) Use not or the contracted form n't after auxiliaries (be, do, have) and modals (can, may, might, would, will, ought, etc.): e.g., I was calling you. Neg: I will not [won't] call you. I might call you. Neg: I might not [mightn't] call you.
  3. (3) Contract the Subject and auxiliary and add no: e.g., I have tickets. Neg: I've no tickets.
  4. (4) Add never before the Verb: e.g., I heard the song. Neg: I never heard the song.
  5. (5) Eliminate or contract any auxiliary and add never to the Verb: e.g., I have head the song. Neg: I never heard the song. Or, I've never heard the song.

Some English dialects and other language dialects use double negation and cumulative negation that is not present in Standard English. For example, Afrikaans has "Nie moet rook nie," which is directly translated "No must smoke not," assigning negation to the assumed Subject "you" and to the Verb "smoke." This is not present in Standardized English, although it was present before the London dialect became prestigious by Shakespeare's time and then later standardized. Chaucer's Middle English is an example of a pre-standardization English dialect that used double negation. Cumulative negation is a collection of three or more negators that make a statement emphatic.

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