Double negatives in Latin

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MyIlium
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Double negatives in Latin

Post by MyIlium » Wed Sep 22, 2004 1:09 am

The other day I came upon the phrase, "Is non modo hoc non perfecit." (It was followed by an 'ut' clause.) Try as I might, I simply couldn't get a meaning to fit.

That got me thinking about double negatives. I know in English double negatives are awkward and boorish and gramatically incorrect, but are they allowed in Latin? (Or maybe I'm just missing something completely....^_^;;)
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Karl
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Post by Karl » Wed Sep 22, 2004 4:42 am

I don't not un-understand! I think they are not not allowed... I don't un-know...

Double negatives are so cool(they're not not uncool...)
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benissimus
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Post by benissimus » Wed Sep 22, 2004 4:49 am

Could you please post the sentence in a larger context?
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MyIlium
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Post by MyIlium » Wed Sep 22, 2004 6:19 am

Double negatives ain't no blue cheese. But they are kinda hard to decipher. -_-

As for the sentence, I believe it was one of Cicero's. There's this guy, and he's being whipped. To save himself, he's yelling "Civis Romanus sum!" And: "Is non modo hoc non perfecit, ut virgarum vim deprecaretur."

I'm pretty sure it means "By this manner he did not not accomplish [ie. he did accomplish] this, to ward off the strength of the blows."
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Post by Dingbats » Wed Sep 22, 2004 1:37 pm

Is this not not common in Latin? :roll: It looks a bit weird, and it's esaier just not to use any negative at all instead.
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Post by Democritus » Wed Sep 22, 2004 6:46 pm

MyIlium wrote:Double negatives ain't no blue cheese. But they are kinda hard to decipher. -_-

As for the sentence, I believe it was one of Cicero's. There's this guy, and he's being whipped. To save himself, he's yelling "Civis Romanus sum!" And: "Is non modo hoc non perfecit, ut virgarum vim deprecaretur."

I'm pretty sure it means "By this manner he did not not accomplish [ie. he did accomplish] this, to ward off the strength of the blows."

I think it means, "In this way, not only did he fail to ward off the strength of the blows...." If non didn't modify modo, then I wonder what modo would be doing there in the first place.

I don't think this is a double negative, I think we just have non modo and non perfecit sitting near each other. Non modo anticipates the sed in the following sentence.

Is this really considered good Latin? This sentence strikes me as awkward. I know, I will probably face some kind of punishment for asking that question about a text from Cicero, but, well, I'm a Roman citizen after all, and they wouldn't dare whip me. ;)

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Post by MyIlium » Fri Sep 24, 2004 2:25 am

So "non" can be interpreted "not only'?

This sentence seemed wrong to me as well. ::grimaces:: But perhaps it was some kind of "poetic language" deal?
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benissimus
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Post by benissimus » Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:00 am

MyIlium wrote:So "non" can be interpreted "not only'?

This sentence seemed wrong to me as well. ::grimaces:: But perhaps it was some kind of "poetic language" deal?
modo as an adverb can mean "only, now, just, just now", so non modo means "not only". I have seen double negatives used in litotes, which is probably the case here. Democritus' interpretation seems to be the best.

I too am interested if anyone has further information regarding double negatives. If anyone needs another example, there is a pretty straightforward line from Catullus 8, ln 7:
quae tu uolebas nec puella nolebat

obviously the double negative here negates itself back to positive, probably the same case with other double negatives
Last edited by benissimus on Sat Sep 25, 2004 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ptran
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Post by ptran » Fri Sep 24, 2004 1:16 pm

Not to quibble, but modo is an adverb, not an adjective. As for the original quote, it's from Cicero's second Verrine, and if you look further in the text, there is a "sed" that coordinates with the "non modo." "Non modo... sed" is very common, and I'm not sure this qualifies as a true double negative. How about in English? "Not only did you NOT call me, but you left without leaving even a note."

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Post by Episcopus » Fri Sep 24, 2004 2:37 pm

Watch out for necnon, meaning also. The Vatican are fond thereof.
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Post by MyIlium » Sat Sep 25, 2004 7:00 pm

Ah, yes. That makes a lot more sense. I was translating "modo" as an ablative of means. Now the whole thing just falls into place. :D
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