What do you mean by "no"?

I was thinking about this the other day. What does the word "no" mean? The opposite of "yes"? How about "I do not agree" or "Permission denied"? I find it absolutely fascinating that two letters in the English language combined have so many different meanings that are hard to describe.


Sopheap said…
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Constance said…
Funny I'm reading this today because earlier I was pondering a similar conundrum. In mandarin chinese, there is no word for "bad." There's words for "wrong" or "no" or "incorrect" or "stinky" etc. But no general word for "bad." If you were to ask a mandarin speaker to say "bad" they would respond with "bu hao": which literally translates as "not good."

We get into a linguistics realm here, which is why grammar/vocab are so important in legal documents. That's why we say "not guilty" instead of "innocent"--ain't no one sayin you're innocent... just means we don't have enough evidence to prove you guilty. OK this is getting rather long-winded and uninteresting... But I *believe* (not sure at ALL on this one) that in Spanish they also lack a word for "bad" instead, they just have "no bueno"= not good. JUST LIKE CHINESE. I wonder what it says about our English culture that we actually have a designated word for "bad" as opposed to only having a negation of good like 'no bueno' or 'bu hao'

ANYWHO. now that I'm finishing this, it doesn't have much to do with the word 'no.' But it does have implications on the etymology of words and the origins of language.

FOR example. Did you know that Chinese used to be read from right to left and top to bottom? (still does actually, in books and novels. In newspapers, they've now changed to a left to right reading stance) THIS is interesting because chinese is an idiographic language (which means they use pictures for words, and not phonemes). It gets more interesting when you study neurology and discover that the RIGHT visual field is connected to the LEFT side of the brain. and the LEFT side of the brain is in charge of images. Hence, why the formation of the written language had it's roots in the very biology of our human brains. Whereas in English, the words come from detailed phonemes and sounds--- which is in the RIGHT hemisphere of the brain, and is therefore connected to the LEFT visual field-- which explains why English has always been read from left to right.

So your whole pondering about the word "no" has huge developmental and even biological implications behind it.

ok. the end.

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