yes & no

Nigel Vincent nbvint at YAHOO.CO.UK
Thu Apr 6 20:15:56 UTC 2006

A question that has always interested me about 'yes'
and 'no' is how they are reported. In English it's
straightforward: you say 'he said no' or 'they said
yes'. In French the yes/no word is introduced by a
complementizer ('il a dit que oui), more specifically
by a complementizer otherwise reserved for finite
constructions, whereas in Italian the connecting word
is 'di' which is either the complementizer for
infinitival clauses or an item which introduces a
nominal (cf 'più intelligente di Giorgio' = 'more
intelligent than George'): thus 'ha detto di no' = 'he
said no'. But what about when the yes/no word is what
people have been calling a 'vocal gesture'? In English
reports of non-linguistic sounds are introduced by
'go' not 'say': thus "he went 'uh-uh'" not *he said
'uh-uh'. However, even if someone made a vocal
gesture, I think it would be reasonable to report it
as 'he said yes' meaning simply 'he gave his consent'.
But in English you can't say *'I believe yes/no'
whereas in Italian you can say 'credo di sì/no'.
How does reporting 'yes/no' words work in other

Professor Nigel Vincent, School of Languages, Linguistics & Cultures, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK.
Tel: +44-(0)161-275-3194    Fax: +44-(0)161-275-3031

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