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  1. #1
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    Default did not buy anything vs. bought nothing

    Dear all,

    I have read in a linguistic paper: 'A speaker who uses 1. is more certain of his negation than the speaker who uses 2.:

    1. I bought nothing.
    2. I did not buy anything.'

    Do you natives agree? Could you elaborate on this? I am not sure I get the point.

    Thanks a lot.

    P.

  2. #2
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: did not buy anything vs. bought nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by palinkasocsi View Post
    Dear all,

    I have read in a linguistic paper: 'A speaker who uses 1. is more certain of his negation than the speaker who uses 2.:

    1. I bought nothing.
    2. I did not buy anything.'

    Do you natives agree? I don't agree; the degree of certainty is the same. Could you elaborate on this? I am not sure I get the point.

    Thanks a lot.

    P.
    2006

  3. #3
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    Default Re: did not buy anything vs. bought nothing

    The first one bought nothing emphasizes buying, in this case buying nothing, whereas the second one did not buy is longer and emphasizes not buying. The difference between the two is i. proximity (i.e., the verb, which is also the nucleus of the sentence, holds second position in the first example, which makes it more in focus or topical. It holds fourth position in the second example making it less in focus) and ii. modification:

    [1] I bought ... nothing <post negation>
    (Cf. I bought ... something.)

    [2] I did not buy anything. (pre-negation)
    (Cf. emphatic I did buy something.)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: did not buy anything vs. bought nothing

    Quote Originally Posted by palinkasocsi View Post
    Dear all,

    I have read in a linguistic paper: 'A speaker who uses 1. is more certain of his negation than the speaker who uses 2.:

    1. I bought nothing.
    2. I did not buy anything.'

    Do you natives agree? Could you elaborate on this? I am not sure I get the point.

    Thanks a lot.

    P.
    No, there's no difference in certainty.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: did not buy anything vs. bought nothing

    Dear Soup,

    What do you mean when you say: "the first one bought nothing emphasizes buying"?

    He actually did not buy anything.

    Thanks.

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