An environment for hyponegation


A few times over the past year I’ve noticed a nice place where hyponegation (less negation than is necessary to convey the logic of what you want to say) happens: in wide scope negation involving because clauses. Consider:

It’s not that he didn’t hire you because you were black. They didn’t hire you because you showed up dressed like you didn’t want or need the job and you showed up late.

This sentiment was conveyed here like this:

Sweetie…they didn’t hire you because you were black, they didn’t hire you because you showed up dressed like you didn’t want or need the job and you showed up late.

Here’s another example (I think; it’s hard to tell just looking at text):

I don’t like fans from Philly because of the rivalry. I don’t like them because they are crass, obnoxious, and always want to fight.

And I can recall several times hearing the basic form

I don’t X because A, I don’t X because B.

meaning “I don’t X, and it’s because of B, not A.” One could speculate on why this might happen. E.g., you’ve already started the sentence with main clause negation on the auxiliary (as opposed to a cleft like it’s not because…), so to maintain the proper amount of negation you’d have to have a not after the negative auxiliary (I don’t not X because A). It’s not quite a repeated morph, but it’s awkward enough that maybe it’s worth avoiding. Interesting, though, because there’s no way that I don’t X because A could be interpreted on its own as I don’t X, and not because of A. You need the contrast with the second clause for anything to make sense.

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