Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   Re: Summary: 'No' and 'Man'
Author:  dave gough
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Discourse Analysis

Summary:   Thanks for all the responses. It was really something to get ideas of
such quality and in such numbers.

1. 'No'

My initial query was:

South African English use of 'No' - does this occur in contexts such

A.How are you?
B.No, I'm fine.

in other English varieties/other languages? Confronted with
such examples, vistors to the country often comment that in SA
English, 'no' means 'yes'. This, of course, is not true. 'No' would
be the response to the question 'Do you have the time?' if the
speaker didn't have the time.

* Generally: A couple of people commented that 'no' definitely does
NOT mean 'yes' in these contexts. What it does is rather to negate
the possibility of a negative belief concerning the answer to the
question. In the example above, for instance, B. is negating A.'s
possible belief that B. is not well. Why South Africans hold that the
possibility of such negative beliefs is so strong they have to be
denied remains to be seen.

* 'no' in other varieties of English

The use of 'no' in the types of examples cited anyway is NOT recorded
according to the responses in:

- Australian English
- American English
- English English

It IS recorded in:

-Nigerian and Ghanaian English

There DO appear to be RELATED (but not identical) discourse uses of
'no' and similar particles in other varieties of English.

Few English responses actually dealt with this usage at all. By far
the majority were on 'man'

* 'No' in other languages

'No' does seem to be used in a variety of other languages in the same
way as in SA English. Similar uses are recorded in:

- The Scandinavian Languages
- German ('doch' - similar but not identical)
- Cameroon French
- Bangkok Thai ('plaw' - lit. 'empty')
- Spanish?

It also occurs, incidentally, in Afrikaans.

2. 'Man'

My question here related to the use of 'man' to express a negative
emotional involvement of the speaker of some sort - irritation,
impatience or annoyance. Examples given were:

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

* English

A huge response that showed that 'man' is used similarly in:

- American English (both 'black' and 'white')
- Scottish English
- Tyneside English (in north east of England)
- Jamaican English
- Welsh English
- An 'Americanism' found in other varieties of English.

The American English usage at least does not necessary carry negative
sentiment and is 'a more general tag ... over which any kind of
emotional intonation can be laid'.

Example b. above, an example which typifies SA usage, was found to be
odd ('weird') by American respondants. The reason for this is that
'man' although an interjection still appears to 'have the flavour of
a term of address so that 'mom, man' sounds like two forms of direct
address in a row'. It seems, then, that 'man' in SAE does not bare
the feature 'term of address' at all in such contexts. The only
instance in which similar usages were given was in Tyneside English.
('Shut up man Geoff' 'Those kegs are too tight man Mary'. Here
though, the actual term of address occurs finally as opposed to the
use of 'man' finally in SAE. This needs to be explored further, but
of further interest:

- There is a distinctly 'American' use of 'man' in SAE that is not
like the South African use of man ('Cool man' type of utterances).

- Other SA examples of man:

- Daddy, man! (5 year old daughter after I stood on her toe)
- Man, David, I don't mean that (Wife and self in 'altercation')
- No man, that's not right.
- Man! This bloody computer is giving problems.

- SAEnglish 'man' alternates between shwa and full vowel in all
contexts. (In SAE shwa occurs as a vowel in stressed
contexts - 'sit' can have shwa for eg):

Related usage in currant American English is the use of 'dude'.

* Other languages

Related uses of 'man' include:

- Dutch
- Swedish ('boy' is used in a similar way)
- Norwegian
-?German use of 'etwa' may have similar function
-German ('usually to indicate weariness')
-?Lhasa Tibetan ('mi' - 'person')

Interestingly in Dutch the 'double address form [ as in 'Hurry up mom,
man'] is impossible (just "schiet op, man" must do).'

Some interesting stuff came out as you can see. Just for your
interest, on further SA English item:

- 'Sorry' for 'I beg your pardon'e.g. A drops something
without knowing. B picks it up and calls out to A 'Sorry, you
dropped something'

Anyway thanks to:

helen adamson
geoffrey sampson
elin haf gruffyd jones
celso alvarez caccamo
mai kuha
mark donohue
marek przezdziecki
scott delancey
mats eeg-olofsson
dom watt
hilde hasselgard
nicole nelson
jane a. edwards
sren harder
charlie rowe
nobue mori
adiego lajara
bruce connell
krisadawan hongladarom
frank bramlett
deborah milam berkley
douglas s oliver
larry trask
kristine hasund
paul boersma
m. lynne roecklein
judy l. delin
benji wald
stephen p. spackman
john verhaar
randall major
+ the person who wished to be anonymous for the references.

LL Issue: 8.585
Date Posted: 25-Apr-1997
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page