+0
Hello all..

When someone says "I do not believe in ghosts." is it the same as saying "I believe no ghosts exist."?

It seems to me that the first sentence the person is saying he has no beliefs in either the existance or non-existance of ghosts and in the second sentence he has a belief in the non-existance of ghosts,Meaning he denies their existance.

Does Neg-Raising apply here? if so what is "neg-raising"?

What would be a good way of saying someone lacks a belief in the existance of ghosts? Aside from saying they "lack belief"?

Would "I have no belief in ghosts." mean the same thing as "I believe in no ghosts"?
1 2
Comments  
Hi Jon,

Welcome to the Forum.

When someone says "I do not believe in ghosts." is it the same as saying "I believe no ghosts exist."? Yes.

It seems to me that the first sentence the person is saying he has no beliefs in either the existance or non-existance of ghosts No, it doesn't give me that meaning at all. If I say that I don't believe in God, that means I don't believe he exists.

and in the second sentence he has a belief in the non-existance of ghosts,Meaning he denies their existance.

Does Neg-Raising apply here? if so what is "neg-raising"? I googled it and got some hits, like the quote at the end of this post. It's pretty specialized stuff - good luck! Really, you need a linguistics forum. All I can do here is answer in terms of 'standard English'.

What would be a good way of saying someone lacks a belief in the existance of ghosts? Aside from saying they "lack belief"? 'He doesn't beieve in ghosts' is the standard way.

Would "I have no belief in ghosts." mean the same thing as "I believe in no ghosts"? To me, yes.

Best wishes, Clive

Neg-Raising

The sentence


John doesn't think this novel is good.



is usually interpreted not as a statement about what John doesn't think but as a statement about what he does think. He does think this novel is not good. Similarly, the sentence


John doesn't want to leave early.



normally conveys John's positive desire not to leave early. This phenomenon has been referred to as Neg-raising (??, 19??) and as negative absorption (Klima, 1964).

The main clause (I believe) is considered "higher" than the subordinate clause (ghosts exist).

The deep structure may be "I believe that ghosts do not exist". But once Neg-raising is applied, the structure becomes (without changing the meaning) "I do not believe that ghosts exist". "think" and "want" operate the same way, as Clive has pointed out.

Strictly speaking, in "believe in + noun" you don't have two clauses, so Neg-raising does not really apply. Nevertheless, as you also seem to feel intuitively, something like Neg-raising does happen in these cases.

Typically the only idiomatic way to say these is to use the form that results after Neg-raising is applied.

"I don't believe in X" is almost always preferable to "I believe in not-X", even when the latter may seem more "logical". I suppose we always assume that people are telling us what they think, what they believe, or what they want, even when they raise the negative and say "I don't think", "I don't believe", or "I don't want".

"I don't want the children to play in traffic" is the idiomatic rendering of the awkward "I want the children not to play in traffic". Only the terminally nit-picky will consistently try to use only the latter construction!

CJ
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
I don't understand how saying something has "No beliefs" as in Zero beliefs actually has a belief against.

For instance if I say "The plant has no beliefs in ghosts." It's the same as saying "The plant has beliefs in no ghosts."?

I don't see how that could work.Plants obviously have "no beliefs" one way or another so how can saying they have "no beliefs in ghosts." mean they "believe in no ghosts."? Someone please explain that.
Hello?

Can someone please answer my questions in my last post?
Apparently not. I don't think anybody really understands what you are asking.

In cases where the whole sentence is anomalous (as in plants having or not having beliefs), I doubt that the usual rules of semantics apply. Also, the phrase "to have beliefs in" is somewhat strange. Maybe no one really knows what to make of it.

That aside, if you "don't believe in X", then you "believe that X doesn't exist", where X is some entity like "elves", "ghosts", "God", or "mooncheese". It is in that sense that Neg-raising is used.

But X could be an entire proposition in itself: that children should make noise in church.
Here "don't believe" is something closer to "don't approve".
"I don't believe that children should be noisy in church" means "I believe that children should not be noisy in church".
Again, Neg-raising.

So depending on the exact meaning of the expression at hand, the logical representation
"not believe X" = "believe not X"
requires some adjustments to find the exact wording on each side of the equal sign.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
CalifJimApparently not. I don't think anybody really understands what you are asking.

In cases where the whole sentence is anomalous (as in plants having or not having beliefs), I doubt that the usual rules of semantics apply. Also, the phrase "to have beliefs in" is somewhat strange. Maybe no one really knows what to make of it.

That aside, if you "don't believe in X", then you "believe that X doesn't exist", where X is some entity like "elves", "ghosts", "God", or "mooncheese". It is in that sense that Neg-raising is used.

But X could be an entire proposition in itself: that children should make noise in church.
Here "don't believe" is something closer to "don't approve".
"I don't believe that children should be noisy in church" means "I believe that children should not be noisy in church".
Again, Neg-raising.

So depending on the exact meaning of the expression at hand, the logical representation
"not believe X" = "believe not X"
requires some adjustments to find the exact wording on each side of the equal sign.
So what possible phrase could I use to describe plants or rocks not having beliefs? Or even people having zero beliefs for or against the existance of Ghosts?

Also explain to me how if I "Do not" positively believe in (X) it means I positively believe against (X).

Explain how if I do not positively "Believe"(Where believe is an action,It's something you do.) in the existance of Ghosts.(No action)..It means the same thing as I positively

"believe" against the existance of ghosts.(An action).
Can someone direct me to a form atleast where people could answer my questions on this topic? If no one can do it here
Hi again, Jon,

I'm sorry you are not finding what you need here. If you go back to our Home Page, you will find that there are various other forums available, including a Linguistics Forum. Perhaps that might be better for you. If not, perhaps someone there could redirect you to a more specialized discussion.

Good luck, Clive
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more