OT [Re: Questions put in the negative]

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Fri Mar 28 20:28:23 UTC 2008

As an interpreter, I once used a negative for a question put to a
group of Japanese. They all answered emphatically in English, "Yes!" I
was embarrassed at having caused such an avoidable misunderstanding
and explained that their "yes" meant "no" because of my phrasing.
Already puzzled about other Japanese manners, my poor English
interlocutor was completely baffled, LOL. BB

On Mar 28, 2008, at 7:54 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Yes, I was hoping someone would mention such papers.
> As for Japanese:  Before I served on an ISO technical standards
> committee having Japanese membership, I had learned about the
> differing responses to negative questions in Japanese vs. English.  I
> was amused when a member of the committee put a question in the
> negative to the Japanese participant, expecting an answer that would
> support his position on an issue, and he was startled to receive what
> he thought was disagreement.  (I considered him an especially
> uncultivated Yahoo, and this was another confirmation.)
> Joel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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