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Do yes and no and yea and nay mean the same things? - Input Junkie
June 3rd, 2016
12:54 pm


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Do yes and no and yea and nay mean the same things?
Nay, they do not.*
Will he not go? — Yes, he will.
Will he not go? — No, he will not.
Will he go? — Yea, he will.
Will he go? — Nay, he will not.

Read the whole article if you're interested in seeing Thomas Moore getting it wrong and being nasty in the process**, and learning about the four-form system breaking down into our more convenient two-form system.

*Well, they do now, mostly.

**That rule about making mistakes when you correct someone else was in play pretty early. Anyone have an earlier example.

Link thanks to Dahlen.

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Date:June 3rd, 2016 05:39 pm (UTC)
The three-form system is familiar to me from French and German, and I see the value in having an affirmative to contradict a negative assertion. English needs a couple of extra words for clarification.

Answering "That's not what I said" with either "Yes" or "No" is potentially ambiguous; you have to say, "Yes, it is," or "No, it isn't." In German, you can say "Doch" to mean "It is what you said," and so "Nein" unambiguously means agreeing that "It's not what you said." Having the no-nay distinction seems unnecessary for disambiguation if you have the yes-yea distinction.
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