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A question of grammar
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 5:03 pm    Post subject: A question of grammar Reply with quote

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I have a problem with "I found no evidence" or any variation of "found no." You can't find 'no evidence,' rather, you 'did not find evidence.'

If language is reductive, that is, if using a word tells you what it is not more than what it is (consider that "dog" can mean many things -- a chihuahua, a great dane, etc. -- but it cannot mean any kind of cat or anything else not 'dog'), saying something is not something seems vacuous.

Saying "we found no evidence" requires us to mentally rework what was said, arriving at the meaning 'we looked for something but didn't find anything,' moving the apparent subject of the object found to the actual subject of the search.

Maybe you're thinking, "Well, what about 'have no'?" It's a fair question. "I have no tea" means "I do not have tea." But generally, I 'have no' problem with that and 'haven't' a clue what the difference could be.
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's that damned old song, "Yes we have no bananas." that bollixed it all up--I would always say, "I haven't found any evidence."
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went out to the shed to get my rake. And there it was, gone.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a college English teacher. I pointed out that "Does he work there?" and "Doesn't he work there?" will get the exact same answer, whether he works there or not. The added "not" doesn't change the meaning of the question in any way. He agreed, but said "doesn't" seems to mean the asker already thinks he does.

Your situation seems similar. "We found no evidence" implies that you know, or certainly believe, such-and-such, but you can't find evidence to prove it. "We didn't find evidence" doesn't imply that. But, in general usage, as in my does/doesn't example, it's all the same.

Maybe?
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you're on to something, Fist. "I found no evidence" seems to imply you went looking for it but didn't find any. "I didn't find any evidence" sounds more like you went into it with an open mind.

I'd probably default to "I found no evidence," tho, because it makes the sentence shorter and is faster to say. (Keep in mind that I wrote news copy for a really long time. Wink )
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Fist has the crux of it. It is the difference between the "intentional search for a specific item" and 'I didn't stumble across it."

"I didn't find any evidence of hidden animals in their dogma." would be a valid statement, especially if one weren't looking for them. However to state "I found no evidence of any hidden animals present in their dogma ... uh ... nevermind.." implies that there was an active search for it, but no trace was present. Afterall, I don't find evidence of the Atlantic Ocean (I live in South Texas Desert...) is different than I can find no evidence of the Atlantic Ocean (which requires I look for it...).

But that is semantics and argumentative logic. not grammar specifically.

For what it is worth.

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Fist (and Aliantha).

However, I was going to say that, to me "I found no evidence" is a bit more assured that there isn't any evidence, rather than "I didn't find any evidence", which seems a bit more unsure about whether maybe there was but you didn't find it.

Of course, "evidence" itself is pretty semantically complex, in that no evidence of something isn't quite the same as no something. So you may or may not have a something, for which there may or may not be evidence, which you may or may not have been able to find. "Not finding evidence" is thus doubly imprecise.

So I replaced "evidence" with "cheese" when I thought about it. Smile
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got no problem with that verbage.

Smile
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOW! I'm annoyed...I wrote a long response to this and it's nowhere to be found!
I'm not going to recreate it, too hard and now it's uninspired. Suffice to say it started with the opposite of Ali's frame and included ouroboros, and ended with definition is, by definition, only tangentially definitive, the problem is we think it deals with is/is not but in function is the space between and both relies on and doesn't care about isness or notness, is simultaneously reductive and expansive...that "irreducible complexity" is senseless cuz "there can't be a watch without a watchmaker" is fallacious since a watch is, by definition, produced by reduction, and no matter how far you "reduce" things, the complexity never vanishes cuz it is inherent.

New line, not in first version: a complex universe doesn't require God to make it, any Godhead requires a complex universe to, even potentially, create him/her/it.

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked up my grammar book, Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (I taught English as a foreign language for a couple of years), rather than the structure being

    'found no'

it is more a usage of

    'no + noun' to mean 'not any' or 'not a/an'.


You can also make sentences with 'verb + not' and 'no + noun' that have similar meanings:

    There wasn't an answer.

    There was no answer.


The structure with no is more emphatic (according to the book).

u.

[P.S. I never taught this, so it's news to me too Laughing]
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The boards (above) say that I 'Have no new messages.'

Perhaps it is a plot! LOL!

And I think U has won the day. Well played!
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:
WOW! I'm annoyed...I wrote a long response to this and it's nowhere to be found!
I'm not going to recreate it, too hard and now it's uninspired. Suffice to say it started with the opposite of Ali's frame and included ouroboros, and ended with definition is, by definition, only tangentially definitive, the problem is we think it deals with is/is not but in function is the space between and both relies on and doesn't care about isness or notness, is simultaneously reductive and expansive...that "irreducible complexity" is senseless cuz "there can't be a watch without a watchmaker" is fallacious since a watch is, by definition, produced by reduction, and no matter how far you "reduce" things, the complexity never vanishes cuz it is inherent.

New line, not in first version: a complex universe doesn't require God to make it, any Godhead requires a complex universe to, even potentially, create him/her/it.


Pardon? It's been a long day, two minutes past midnight and I've just finished working for the night. I have no more work to do, or should I say I haven't any more work to do, at least until tomorrow. Snooze
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 12:14 am    Post subject: Re: A question of grammar Reply with quote

[Syl] wrote:
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I have a problem with "I found no evidence" or any variation of "found no." You can't find 'no evidence,' rather, you 'did not find evidence.'


I ain't found no evidence, none. Zero, zip, zed, nada.

fixed it for you. now it works good.
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's just the way English deals with the negative on certain verbs. To change "have no" to "do not have" is to change the verb from "have" to "do". It's less direct. It's also exactly the same structure: you've gone from "have no" to "do not".

If you can accept "do not have" then you should have no problem with "have no X".
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right, which is why I said I don't really have a problem with 'have no.' Specifically, it's 'find no' that bugs me. To me, either you find something or you do not find something. It seems weird to find no something.

Thinking about it out loud, so to speak, I think I'm resolving the problem for myself at a different angle. If I said "I found a rock," it means I found something with rock-like characteristics, all other things that may have been considered or even found are rendered irrelevant. There may be many other things, some of them perhaps even rocks, but I found a specific, unique one. Saying "I found no rock" means the inverse (ok, obviously, but in a different but related way than the normal meaning). I considered all things that could be found, and none had rock-like characteristics. The field is turned inside out.

Changing to the past participle seems to say something different. At first glance, sure, the negation goes from the object to the verb (no rock / no find), but it seems there should be something significant about the change to past participle as well. Also, it's easy enough to kind of mentally map an object compared to a non-object, but I'm having trouble matching a verb to a non-verb. I'm wondering if it has to do with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in that English verbs do not have a simple negative forms (like Japanese does, IIRC).
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 2:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have no, find no, the verb makes no difference to my point. It's just how English puts verbs into the negative.
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

but i like saying "i found no evidence...blah blah blah." Big Grin
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The use of "found no" with the word "evidence" has implications that "I found no rocks" doesn't have. A lawyer in a courtroom (a situation of which I don't have any experience apart from watching TV shows like Perry Mason) might say "I found no evidence" which might say to a jury that there was none to find. He could say "I haven't found any evidence, which is saying more or less the the same thing, but less emphatically. Or he could say "I haven't found any evidence, which implies more that he's looked but hasn't found any.

Nelson was supposed to have put the telescope to his blind eye and said "I see no signal". A much more profound statement than "I can't see any signal".
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am reminded of how many times in the UK the police report that when they went look for someone who they thought might be able to 'help with thier enquierys' that person was 'found to be missing'.

On an off topic note (ducks to miss a spanner thrown by [syl]), I was interested to read this week of an unspoken rule in grammer relating to the 'hierarchy of adjectives'. This is the rule that they tend in a sentance to take the following order - opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, matereal, purpose - and that if not adhered to a certain 'wrongness' results. Here's an example, 'A lovely little 1930's Bakelite radio', or again, 'A hideous new green crinoline dress'. Thus we might describe Newt Gingrich as a gahastly old conservative relic, but never as a conservative ghastly old relic which somehow sounds a bit off.
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reminds me of the example in our English Grammar books at school:

"Wanted a chair for an old lady with Queen Anne legs". Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I found no evidence" sounds more like what you hear in court (at least on the idea of court that I get from tv and film). And it's said that way because they were looking for evidence. It was why you were in the warehouse in the first place.

"I didn't find evidence" is more like you didn't happen to notice anything that, now that you think about it, could be evidence. Sort of like a friend asks if you found any old coins when he heard you were exploring the warehouse. "I didn't find coins! Are there coins in there??"
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