[b-greek] Re: The theory of negation (To Carl, Carlton, Iver, Keith)

From: Moon-Ryul Jung (moon@saint.soongsil.ac.kr)
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 06:05:14 EST

Dear Carlton, thanks for taking time to respond to my post.
I hope your wife will recover soon.

My comments and clarification are below.

> >To sum the theory of negation, it is as follows:
> >
> >(1) Focus:
> > Every sentence has the focus, which is the part that conveys
> > new information or information relevant to the hearer. The
> > focus is indicated either by stress or word order. In othe words,
> > the proposition stated by a (natural language) sentence is not
> > the bare proposition but the "focused proposition".
> > The part of the sentence not in focus is considered
> > the background or presupposition of the sentence.
> > The presupposition can be represented as
> > an open proposition obtained by replacing the focus with a
> > variable X. The open proposition can be considered a complex
> > predicate. It implies that the proposition holds with respect
> > to some entity X.
> I can agree that every sentence has a focus, but can a sentence have two
> focii (coordinated)? But, I agree here but for the questions I have on word
> order.

> I certainly agree with the negation of the proposition and with the
> allowance that a lesser focus (expressed as proposition) can be negated.
> >

Good questions and comments. I was not clear, and my language was sloppy.
Let me try to express my intention rigorously.

By the focus of a sentence, I mean the information that is not assumed or
presupposed by the speaker/hearer. It is the new information that the
speaker tries to convey. This new information may has several parts in it.
So, perhaps it is better to talk about focii rather than the focus, each
part in the new information being a focus. I will use "focii" of a
from now on.


(1): John introduced Mary to [Jim]F.
(2): John introduced [Mary]F to [Jim]F.
(3): John [introduced]F Mary to Jim.
(4): John [introduced]F Mary to [Jim]F
(5): John [introduced]F [Mary]F to [Jim]F

Here, [X ]F means X is a focus.
In this case, each focus gets stress. (1) presupposes that John
introduced Mary to someone X, and claims that this X is Jim. Here
Jim is the focus.
(2) presupposes that John introduced someone X to someone Y and
claims that this X is Mary and this Y is Jim. Here, Mary and Jim are
(3) presupposes that John did somethig X that involves Mary to Jim, and
claims that this something is "introduce". Here "introduce" is the
(5) presupposes that
John did something X that involves someone Y to someone Z, and
claims that this X is "introduce", this Y is Mary, and
this Z is Jim. Here, "introduce", "Mary", and "Jim" are focii.
When (5) is negated as in "John did not [introduce]F [Mary]F to [Jim]F",
the focus of the sentence, which consists of subfocii, that is,
"introduce Mary to Jim" is negated.

Considering the above explanation, would you explain what you meant by
"a lesser focus ( expressed as proposition) can be negated"?

> >(4) Local negation
> >
> >Sentences like
> >
> >(a) "John went to New York not long ago"
> Once again I would emphasize that English egs. must be used with care not
> to destort the Greek expressions. With that said, I think the sentence
> above fails to take into consideration that in Greek there is much more
> going on in the minde of the writer than you express in English. I would
> say that in the mind of the Greek speaker the negation works like this,

 (b) "John did not go to New York long ago, but (he went) recently."

How would you explain the difference between

(1) John did not go to New York [long ago]F.
(2) John went to New York [not long ago]F

(1) negates that John went to New York [long ago]F. It implies
that John went to New York recently. The same is true of (2).
But (2) states this fact directly, whereas (1) states it indirectly.
So, the content is the same. Only the way it is expressed is different.
But "not" in "not long ago" should be considered to negate only
"long ago", and its scope is local to the adverbial phrase. The reason
why (2) is considered positive indicated by the following pair:

(a) John went to New York not long ago.
(b) Neither did Jim.

(b) is not valid in relation to (a). If (a) were a negative statement,
(b) should be OK. The fact that (b) is not valid in relation to (a)
suggests that it is not the usual negation (global negation).

Could you explain why the Greek version of (a) would mean different?

> A Greek eg. (not negation).
> Exactly what is the main focus? Perhaps there are several.
I agree, as I said above.

> >The following example is not the same as (b).
> >
> >(c) He wants you, not me
> >
> >Here "not me" is the abbreviation of "He does not want ME".
> >So, "not me" is a true negation.
> That is what I tried to illustrate several days ago but does it the work
> the same in Greek? Only to the extent that it illustrates elyptical speech
> and an element that is understood.
Your caution is valid. But we learn by analogy.

> >PS:
> >I have studied for two years logic, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics
> >at the University of Pennsylvania . . .
> Is that where Barth Erhmann teaches NT?
I do not know him, because I did not learn Greek there. I studied
linguistics there.

Moon-Ryul Jung
Associate Professor
Sogang Univ, Seoul, Korea

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