Negative Raising in English

1
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Here is a site explaining Negative Raising in English.

Raising in English

I would like to know if this is considered an idiomatic way of expressing things, rather than a definitive grammatical construction.

For example, if you ask someone "do you believe in magic?" and they respond "no."

Then grammatically their belief would be set up as "I don't believe in magic."

Vs. "I believe that magic does not exist."

But does that mean they believe magic isn't real? Or just that they don't hold the belief that magic is real or fake?

What construction would one use then if you wanted to say that you don't believe magic is real but you don't have any reason to think it is fake? Certainly someone who believes neither would "not believe in magic." Right?

Carrying this over into Spanish we see that spanish people use the subjunctive for this construction. No creo que existan las magias.

Vs. "Creo que las magias no existen."

Does Spanish use the subjunctive to remove this confusion? Or does the confusion exist in Spanish as well?

I do realize English is my first language, and I really should know this, but it confuses me.

3685 views
updated OCT 3, 2009
edited by Fredbong
posted by Fredbong

5 Answers

2
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Back to the original topic of negative raising, it is interesting to notice some similarities with the use of the Spanish subjunctive. The negative is not usually shifted when expressing certainty:

I'm sure he's not coming.

I'm certain he's not coming.

These both have a different meaning than

I'm not sure (if) he's coming.

As for the question on magic, the semantic difference between the absence of a belief in something and the belief that something does not exist (or isn't real) usually occurs within the context of whether or not atheism is a religion. My favorite answer is that atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.

If this kind of remark on religion is not allowed, please let me know and I'll delete it.

updated OCT 3, 2009
posted by lorenzo9
I like that last part Lorenzo.
1
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Someone is accused of a crime. Your friend asks you "do you think he committed the crime?" Wouldn't "I don't believe he committed the crime" being used to mean that you believe he has not committed the crime be an idiomatic expression? Because whether or not you are undecided on what happened, you still would "not believe he did it."

I would say it is not so much idiomatic, but rather that English only allows one negation and the sentence has two verbs. If you look at the two sentences:

I don't believe he committed the crime.

I believe he didn't commit the crime.

The first allows the possibility that you are unsure if he committed the crime or not, while the second does not. The first is the standard for juries to establish innocence in criminal trials, while the second is closer to the standard in a civil trial.

updated OCT 3, 2009
edited by lorenzo9
posted by lorenzo9
1
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Ok. I'll try to use another example.

Someone is accused of a crime. Your friend asks you "do you think he committed the crime?"

Wouldn't "I don't believe he committed the crime" being used to mean that you believe he has not committed the crime be an idiomatic expression?

Because whether or not you are undecided on what happened, you still would "not believe he did it."

Essentially my question is "is this an idiomatic expression?" It is idiomatic in that it expresses something without using words that mean it. It hints at what you are trying to say rather than actually saying it.

updated OCT 3, 2009
edited by Fredbong
posted by Fredbong
0
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Yes, there are many such expressions. This is why legal documents are written in a very detailed language, to avoid confusion and loopholes.

updated OCT 3, 2009
posted by 00b83c38
0
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Words cannot really express everything but when a person says "I don't believe in magic", whether is in English or Spanish, what they mean is that they don't think is real, that it is fake, that it is just some crazy hocus pocus, an illusion...There is a clear understanding between the difference of an illusionist act and that of a wizard. Take for example Sathya Sai Baba, the Hindu Avatar, many people believe in his supernatural powers as they claim he is able to materilize objects out of thin air, while others are convinced they have the physical evidence to prove he is a fake. Tending to one of your questions: "What construction would one use then if you wanted to say that you don't believe magic is real but you don't have any reason to think it is fake?"---Well, I'll say "I have no evidence or reason to prove or disprove the veracity of magic."---Just as there are people who are very satisfied with the notion that they can't neither attest for the existence of God nor refute it. "No creo que existe la magia. vs. Creo que la magia no existe." are in my native spanish speaking mind both the same---simply put, magic is fake. Now for example, if someone asks me if I have any money and I answer; "Creo que no tengo dinero". --- then I search in my pocket to clear this doubt---it is a doubt, "creo" in this case would represent uncertainty--- This is why I believe that language is imperfect and cannot express every feeling and thought unless we meticulously elaborate our statements. I think it would be easier to understand this if you chose another subject rather than magic or the supernatural.

updated OCT 3, 2009
edited by 00b83c38
posted by 00b83c38