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When I look up the phrase “no doubt,” there are two meanings. One is equivalent to “without a doubt” and the other is “perhaps.” Their meanings seem very different. So how can I tell which meaning the writer is trying to convey?


Less linguistic complexity no doubt restricts the abilities of animals to solve problems by the manipulation of symbols and to reflect on the past and future.

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teacherJapanWhen I look up the phrase “no doubt,” there are two meanings. One is equivalent to “without a doubt” and the other is “perhaps.”

Where do you see these two meanings?

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teacherJapanOne is equivalent to “without a doubt” and the other is “perhaps.”

"perhaps"? I'd say it's more like "most likely" or "probably". Here's a definition of "no doubt" from the Oxford-Lexico Dictionary that comes close to what you mentioned, but it's not exactly what I think you're referring to:

no doubt: Used to introduce a concession which is subsequently dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant.
‘they no doubt did what they could to help her, but their best proved insufficient’

teacherJapanSo how can I tell which meaning the writer is trying to convey?

Personally, I think it's obvious from context, but at the same time, I find some of the examples given in dictionaries rather mystifying, so it may not be so obvious after all.

teacherJapanLess linguistic complexity no doubt restricts the abilities of animals to solve problems by the manipulation of symbols and to reflect on the past and future.

I would call this an example of the "most likely" definition of "no doubt" because there is no proof of the claim in question.


Besides "most likely", you can sometimes paraphrase "no doubt" as "one may surmise", especially when it's at the beginning of a sentence.

Perhaps Obama hasn't spoken because he doesn't yet know what he wants to say. No doubt, the policy is evolving rapidly, responding to events and not theories. Our policy, he might say, echoing Abraham Lincoln, is to have "no policy." [ no doubt ~ one may surmise that ~ it may be surmised that]

No doubt the CEO made a difficult decision that he believes best serves the corporation, but it leaves the organization without a leader at a perilous moment, facing budget problems, ... [ no doubt ~ one may surmise that ~ it may be surmised that]

In the process the candidate no doubt learned a thing or two about national politics.

For me"no doubt" only has its very definite meaning when it's used as a determiner and a noun, not as a fixed adverbial expression:

He knows our community and our kids, so I have no doubt he can turn this around.
There is no doubt that he played horribly in the 10 games prior to last night.
They design their policies to send a company's entire business to several preferred airlines or hotels. A survey by the National Business Travel Association leaves no doubt about that.

No doubt there will be a variety of opinions on this topic.

CJ

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teacherJapanWhen I look up the phrase “no doubt,” there are two meanings

It would help to know where you looked it up. Not all resources will be anything like right or useful.

teacherJapanOne is equivalent to “without a doubt” and the other is “perhaps.”

Interesting. I would have said that it means that there is no doubt considering the meanings of the two words.

teacherJapanLess linguistic complexity no doubt restricts the abilities of animals to solve problems by the manipulation of symbols and to reflect on the past and future.

I see your point. We really can't know what goes on inside an animal's head, so to say "no doubt" seems presumptuous, but it still means certainty when you put it like that. I wouldn't. If you want to hedge your bets, you have to go with "perhaps" or "likely", or recast the sentence.

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