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Query Details

Query Subject:   Nelleke Oostdijk
Author:   Elisabeth Burr
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Discourse Analysis

Query:   I's wondering if people on the list could help me with some issues
regarding the use of 'no' and 'man'.


It is often commented by visitors from other English speaking
countries that South African English speakers say 'no' meaning
'yes', a usage which has been called by one person the 'affirmative
negative'. Here are some examples:

A: How are you?
B: No I'm fine

In Store

A: Could you deliver these for me?
B: No, that will be a pleasure.

In general the basis for the usage appears to be something like:

'You may have other thoughts about the [sometimes imposing]
proposition you've just put to me. I'll (politely) negate these
other thoughts before responding', so:

Are you sure you can manage?
No, there won't be a problem with that.

It won't occur in a context like:

A: Is your car new?

Where the 'yes' or 'no' that B. will give will be responding, not to
a possibly impolite belief, but rather simply to the proposition
itself. [Basically then, 'no' means 'yes' in limited contexts].

My questions here:

Do you find this type of usage elsewhere in the English speaking
world or in other languages? (It seems to be a general South African
feature too - happens in Afrikaans and in African languages).


Another features commented on by visitors to the country is the
frequent use of 'man' as an interjection by English speaking South

'Man, it's hot today'.
'Hurry up mom, man'
'Man, I can't get this right'

The interjection is used whatever the sex of the speaker or hearer.
It generally indicates a 'negative' emotional involvement of the
speaker of some sort - irritation, impatience or annoyance.

Again the question is: Does this feature occur in other varieties of
English? How is 'man' used in Jamaican English or 'black' English in
the USA? [my impressions from American TV programmes are not too
finely tuned, but it seems different]. Is 'man' used in this way in
other languages?.

Thanks for your time.

David Gough
Department of Linguistics
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17

Tel: +27 21 959-2978 (w)
LL Issue: 8.521
Date posted: 14-Apr-1997


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