- For Teachers
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.
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:
 I bought ... nothing <post negation>
(Cf. I bought ... something.)
 I did not buy anything. (pre-negation)
(Cf. emphatic I did buy something.)
What do you mean when you say: "the first one bought nothing emphasizes buying"?
He actually did not buy anything.