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Conceptual Distortions from Negative Descriptors

The possibility that non-governmental may be comprehended as anti-governmental in some languages (Part #1)

Affixal negation: a linguistic investigation
Preliminary confirmation
Logic and philosophy: negation and negative statements

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Previously published in International Associations 26, 1974, 3, pp. 150-155. Also in: Les Problèmes du Langage dans la Société Internationale (Compte rendu du colloque, Paris 28-29 mars 1974). Bruxelles, Union des Associations Internationales, 1975, pp. 178-181

A number of concepts used in the description of features considered to be of importance in international discourse are represented by terms with negative prefixes. Examples are :

  • nongovernmental
  • nonterritorial
  • nonagression
  • nonviolence
  • nonaligned
  • non profit
  • non-self-governing
  • nonintervention
  • non-European.

It is assumed that there are no special difficulties or distortions associated with the use of a negative prefix when the term is translated into some language, especially of the non-indo- European groups which are the mother tongues of 50 % of the world's population. It is the purpose of this paper to look at some of the possible difficulties on the basis of available evidence. In the first section, use is made of a linguistic investigation of negative prefixes. In the following section, some evidence collected for this paper is presented. A final section draws attention to the concern of philosophers and logicians for the difficulties associated with negative statements and concepts of negation.