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  1. #1
    steadyj is offline Newbie
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    Default Ain't got no water

    "Ain't got no water", the answer to a guy who asks for water. What does it mean? It seems "have not got no water". So does the person have water or not? Similarly "I didn't put nothing up", did he put something or nothing?From a Texas conversation. Thanks very much.

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Ain't got no water

    Double negatives, typical of colloquial speech but to be avoided in any formal context.

    I ain't got no water = I haven't any water
    I didn't put nothing up = I did not put anything up.

  3. #3
    steadyj is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Ain't got no water

    Thank you Anglika. Hard to understand why double negatives don't render positive. It seems conflicted with logic. But that is the way it is. Maybe I can't treat language with reasoning.

  4. #4
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Ain't got no water

    Some languages have a strategy ("negative concord") of marking negation in such sentences twice, once with a negative particle ("not") and once on the quantifier ("no water"). Besides English dialects French is an example (ne... rien), and so for that matter was Ancient Greek, though it doesn't seem to have confused either ancient Greek or French logicians. It just so happens that standard English (along with many other languages) adopts the opposite strategy, and traditional grammarians have sought to reinforce this with an appeal to logical syntax.

    It might be useful to think of sentences like "he ain't got no water" not as having two negations, but as having one negation marked twice (like a kind of agreement). But of course English teachers still have to make it clear that this device is not used in standard English.

  5. #5
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Ain't got no water

    Quote Originally Posted by steadyj View Post
    "Ain't got no water", the answer to a guy who asks for water. What does it mean? It seems "have not got no water". So does the person have water or not? Similarly "I didn't put nothing up", did he put something or nothing?From a Texas conversation. Thanks very much.
    Unfortunately, in English a double negative quite often does make a positive. Eg. I'm not unaware of your concerns = I'm aware of your concerns.
    But the 'ain't' is a giveaway that this is not standard English.

  6. #6
    steadyj is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Ain't got no water

    Thank you Orangutan and Raymott. Yes it may not be standard english. It is from "No country for old man", a movie of Texas story.

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