- 1 Re:Hi
- 2 Rao (Chinese name)
- 3 Bo (Chinese name)
- 4 "I didn't disagree with you" (revised)
- 5 Juan is not 娟, 隽 nor is it 卷
- 6 Wa
- 7 Test line
- 8 Edit summaries are good, too!
- 9 Republic of China article
- 10 A cup of tea for you!
- 11 Li Surname (郦)
- 12 Disambiguation link notification for June 23
- 13 ArbCom elections are now open!
- 14 ArbCom Elections 2016: Voting now open!
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"I didn't disagree with you" (revised)
Hello. I saw your help-desk question in which you asked about the meaning of the English sentence, "I didn't disagree with you." I thought I'd try to help you with your question here, instead of at the help desk, since I didn't want to post a long reply there. You've asked an excellent and very interesting question! Even though the sentence is quite short, it's really very complex in its language structure. We need to look carefully at that structure in order to understand what the sentence means.
A careful reply to your question appears below. I've posted it here in "collapsed" format to avoid using a lot of space on your talk page. Just click the "show" button at the right end of the bar, below, to see the full comment:
|collapsing "Explanation in reply to your question"|
In mathematics there is this wise advice: "If you do not understand a problem, then there is some more simple problem that it depends on that you also do not understand. Find that simpler problem, and solve that." So because the sentence you ask about is complex and hard to understand, let us first begin with this much simpler sentence:
It's a little confusing in English, but for our purposes here this simpler sentence can mean two very different things:
Next we need to ask what happens when we bring the meaning of the past-tense contradiction phrase "did not" into sentences (1a) and (1b).
It's a strangely complicated rule in English, but when the two words "did not" are introduced into a declarative sentence about the past, the two words are placed just before the declarative sentence's main past-tense verb, and then that main past-tense verb is revised to be conjugated in the present-tense. The sentence taken as a whole nevertheless continues to describe something that occurred in the past, because the past-tense verb phrase "did not" carries the burden of informing the listener that it is something in the past that is being discussed.
This same complicated process by which a declarative past-tense sentence is contradicted can also be applied to our earlier example, to achieve the same kind of result. This can be seen by imagining a conversation between two friends who are discussing Jiang Hou and Pang Nuan:
If the second friend in our example is correct, then we can combine and condense the two friends statements into a single sentence that tells the truth of the matter:
We're still not finished, though, because just as I showed in (1a) and (1b) above, sentence (2) can also mean either of two different things for our purposes here:
Now these two sentences are pretty clear: The first interprets "disagreed" from sentence (2) to inform us us that Jiang Hou did not say something. Likewise, the second interpretation of "disagreed" from sentence (2) just tells us that Jiang Hou did not think something.
But like the Shao Lin example from above, neither of these two sentences, (2a) or (2b), tells us anything at all about what, if anything, Jiang Hou did say or did think about Pang Nuan. They merely tell us what he didn't say or didn't think.
In other words, there is simply not enough information in either sentence for us to make any guesses like these:
We don't know whether Shao Lin went to the temple, and we don't know what, if anything, Jiang Hou said or thought about Pang Nuan. We only know what he didn't say or think.
Now before we go on, let us substitue "I" for Jiang Hou, and let us substitue "you" for Pang Nuan. This gives:
Just as in the previous examples, if I were to say either of these sentences I would merely be stating a negative. I would only be communicating the fact that I didn't say something or didn't think something. There is not enough information in either sentence for you to know what, if anything, I did say or think.
There's not enough information present in the two sentences to validly infer any additional meanings from them, in other words. For example, they do not imply any of the following:
Do you see? Knowing what somone didn't say or or think tells you nothing at all about what he did say or think, if anything. If you want to know what he did say or think you must simply ask him for more information. I hope this helps. Feel free to ask here for clarification, if needed. I will keep this page on my watch list for a week or two, so I don't miss any reply you might make here. Best regards, – OhioStandard (talk) 03:17, 5 June 2010 (UTC)
- Thanks for your comprehensive analysis on the sentence "I didn't disagree with you." It helps me a lot. I am curious to know whether you are a mathematian:) Best.--刻意(Kèyì) 22:10, 5 June 2010 (UTC)
- You'll see that I copied your reply from my talk/discussion page here, just above. ( It seems best to me if all comments in a discussion can be found on just one page. ) You are most welcome for my remarks on your question. I enjoyed thinking about it very much. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I've written more about it!
|collapsing "Further explanation"|
The analysis I wrote above is correct, but it is an analysis of only the literal meaning of the sentence. I probably paid too little attention to its connotation. I must tell you that most native speakers of English probably would say that the sentence does connote some mild agreement, some weak or qualified support for the other person's words, ideas, or actions.
I thought it important to mention this because I've thought more about the present-tense sentence "I don't disagree with you." Someone who says "I don't disagree with you" almost certainly wants to express mild support, at least, for the other's words, ideas, or actions. I admit it is rather strange that the present-tense sentence connotes some agreement, while the past-tense "I didn't disagree with you" does not necessarily connote agreement, or connotes only weaker or partial agreement. ( English is full of such strange rules, I'm sorry to say. ) Perhaps some of the following comments will help explain.
I've already mentioned several reasons why "I didn't disagree with you" is complex, but I failed to mention the most important reason for its complexity: The sentence is a kind of double negative; it might be more exactly called a litotes.
Most negative sentences have only one word to indicate negation, e.g. the word "not" is most often used. But "I did not disagree with you" has more than one negation; the prefix "dis" in "disagree" also indicates negation. ( This can be seen clearly in the two sentences "The room is in order" and "The room is in disorder"; the first means the room is clean and ready for use while the second means it is not, it is messy or chaotic in some way. )
When a sentence that already contains a negation, like "dis", has another negation added to it, however, the meaning becomes much less clear. Consider adding "not" to our example "The room is in disorder" to get the sentence "The room is not in disorder". This is an example of a kind of double-negative. A person who has asked to rent a hotel room might reasonably reply, "I don't want a room that is 'not in disorder'. I want a room that is in order!"
Because this "double negative" pattern of speaking is so ambiguous, most teachers would say it should be avoided if a speaker wants to be clearly understood. Sometimes people use the pattern when they do not want to be very clear. A politician might use it, for example ;-) The author George Orwell ridiculed the pattern in his famous example, "The not unblack dog chased the not unwhite rabbit across the not ungreen field." ( The prefix "un" negates the words black, white, and green, here. ) All native speakers of English would see that sentence as a silly, ridiculous one. Unfortunately, it is also a proper sentence, it is proper English grammar, in other words.
So you understand, now, what I meant when I wrote earlier that such sentences do not really carry enough meaning to understand them fully? When I wrote that "you have to ask for more information" to understand the speaker's exact intention? If someone said, "The dog was not unblack" it would probably best to reply, "What color was it, then?" instead of assuming the speaker means it was gray, or that it was only black in spots, and also had different colors on other places on its body. Or perhaps it would be better still to reply: "Please don't talk that way. You give me a headache." ;-)
Finally, after I posted my first reply, above, I noticed that the Wikipedia article for double negative mentions a sentence that's very close to the one you first asked about. Here's what it says:
I hope I haven't confused you with all this! The sentence you asked about would also be quite difficult for most native speakers of English to analyze, discuss, and understand correctly.
Perhaps the best rule would be to avoid speaking with this pattern yourself, and to ask for more information about the meaning when someone else speaks any sentence that has this "double negative" pattern.
- I'm only an amateur in mathematics, since you ask. I'm much more interested in the foundations of mathematics, especialy in symbolic logic, lingustics, semantics, formal languages, and related areas. I'm fascinated by how symbols communicate meaning, and by the puzzles and problems that arise in that process. ( See liar's paradox for one example. ) Such puzzles can give us a hint about hidden, fundamental mistakes in our usual way of thinking, and I have always enjoyed trying to discover such mistakes and understand how they arise. Best, – OhioStandard (talk) 02:47, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
Juan is not 娟, 隽 nor is it 卷
The sentence which I wrote and which you keep moving back to its out of context position makes no sense whatsoever there and is flat out wrong as in that paragraph it it is referring to the Spanish name not the Chinese name/word. Please put it back. 126.96.36.199 (talk) 21:17, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
- Never mind, I've moved it. There will be a problem if you move it back because that sentence, which I repeat, I ORIGINALLY WROTE, is diameterically the opposite of the case in the context of the paragraph you keep moving it to. As an apparent speaker of a language which is extremely context sensitive I should think you would have some appreciation of this. 188.8.131.52 (talk) 21:26, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Excuse me for my misunderstanding. I thought that sentence was talking about the spanish name.--刻意(Kèyì) 09:09, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
Many thanks fou your help about Wa flags. The flag I draw is the one of Wa National Organization/Wa National Army that was for many years (in te seventy and eighty) the main (or single) Wa nationalist group, and their flags was considered "national", even if it seems that this can be discused now. After 1989 the main Wa group was the United Wa State Party/United Wa State Army, that signed a peace agreement with SLORC and administer a special region within Shan State. The flags in the video seems to be the United Wa State Party (the first image) and the flags of United Wa State Army - Myanmar - Shan State, the next image with three flags. Also is know the flag of Wa National Unity Party (created in 1989 as Wa National Development Party) that is blue over red with a canton with a white canton containing the three mountains and star. Unluckely there's few Wa infos in the net and less about flags; I hope that this change in next years. My best regards. --184.108.40.206 (talk) 18:17, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
Edit summaries are good, too!
Republic of China article
Since you have previously discussed about the Republic of China, I guess you are interested to share your insights at Talk:Republic of China#Requested Move (February 2012). Thanks for your attention. 220.127.116.11 (talk) 18:47, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
A cup of tea for you!
|幸会朋友~_~ Zen Light (talk) 20:55, 11 November 2012 (UTC)|
Please stop undoing the redirect for this non-notable stub written in poor English by a now-blocked user, whose creation of these articles was deemed disruptive editing. The redirect was discussed at Talk:Li (surname)#Merger proposal (among countless other places - it was a hell of a discussion!) and there was some consensus for it. I'm not talking about the other surnames such as Li (surname meaning "profit"), just the stub. Anything on this specific surname can be included at the target - on its own, it wasn't deemed notable. Also it doesn't conform with WP:USEENG. --Rob Sinden (talk) 10:42, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
- 刻意, I have restored your edit. This represents User:Robsinden's personal view that Chinese family names should not have separate articles, it is not a view that has consensus. At the moment it is stalemated. In ictu oculi (talk) 12:02, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
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