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  1. #1
    Buddallah is offline Newbie
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    Default Positive claim or Negative claim

    Hello, I have a question about positive claims, but more specific if a certain sentence is a positive claim.

    The claim is this: "There are no former atheists".

    From a logical point of view, this statement is a positive claim. It is asserting that something is the case, or is saying that it is true that "There are no former atheists".

    What I would like to know is, from a grammatical point of view, is this sentence a positive claim. I understand that it has that adverb of "no" in it, which seems to indicate that it is a negative sentence.

    Is the sentence a positive one or a negative one? Please explain, grammatically, how it is either a negative or a positive.

    I know this question seems pointless, but someone I know and I are arguing if it is a positive claim or a negative claim. I pointed out that from a logical point of view it is a positive claim. They say from a grammatical point of view it is a negative claim because it has the adverb of 'no' in it. Please help us solve this claim.

  2. #2
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Positive claim or Negative claim

    If we believe that the law of excluded middle (or the principle of double negation) is true, we must accept that every sentence is semantically both negative and positive.

    When I say, "All cats are black," it means no more and no less than, "It is not true that it is not true that all cats are black." The second one is a negative sentence, in the sense that negation is the last operation that we perform in calculating its logical value. (It's a syntactic sense.) The second one is positive in this sense. But they both have the same meaning---they're semantically identical.

    PS: I may have failed to answer your question. I prefer not to try solve the problem whether your "no" sentence is syntactically negative or positive. It depends on the definition, which I do not know.

  3. #3
    Buddallah is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Positive claim or Negative claim

    Thank you for your reply. You did not answer the question on a grammar side, but thank you for your input.

    I do understand that most, if not all, statements have a symmetrical value of being either positive or negative. With your example of "All cats are black" is a Universal affirmative, and has the logical equivalence of "No cats are nonblack" or "All noncats are nonblack". This I understand.

    My aunt, which teaches 8th grade english helped me break down the sentence. What they lead me to believe is this. "There are no former atheists" becomes, with "There" to become, "Atheists are no former atheists". This then becomes the law of identity, which is "Atheists are atheists". That is just a tautology, and of course it is true.

  4. #4
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Positive claim or Negative claim

    Thank you for your kind words. I hope someone helps you solve it.

  5. #5
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Positive claim or Negative claim

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddallah View Post
    What I would like to know is, from a grammatical point of view, is this sentence a positive claim. I understand that it has that adverb of "no" in it, which seems to indicate that it is a negative sentence.
    My opinion is that it is a negative utterance from a grammatical point of view.

    The usual way of negating utterances in English involves 'not', but there are other ways, usually with 'no', or a word containing 'no'. The following are all negative utterances, in my opinion.


    There are no former atheists.
    There are not (aren't) any former atheists.
    Nobody is a former atheist.
    Nowhere can you find a former atheist.
    You can never find a former atheist.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Positive claim or Negative claim

    Grammatically it's negative IMO:

    There are former atheists. (Positive)
    There are no former atheists. (Negative)

    No negates the number.

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