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I would need help with the following sentence:

It may be no more difficult to claim in words a feeling not felt than one that is.

The “no more” is related to the whole sentence or just to the “feeling not felt”?

My understanding (it is incorrect I guess, so I would a little help here):
In other words: Maybe it is not more difficult to claim in words a feeling we do not feel than one we feel.

I would need to understand the sentence as a whole.

Also probably I do not translate correctly may – can it be “does not have to be” in this context?

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No more is not a constituent here. More is part of the comparative construction more difficult... than X, whereas no negates that entire comparison. –  John Lawler Dec 13 '12 at 20:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"No" in this context means "not any".

The sentence is saying there are two things, and one is not any more difficult than the other. The first thing is to claim in words a feeling that is not felt; the second thing is to claim in words a feeling that is felt. According to the sentence, neither of those is any more difficult than the other.

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Yes, but I do think saying that something "may be no more X than Y" strongly implies that whereas it's definitely not Y, it's probably (but not definitely) not X either. As opposed to "is no more X than Y" which implies that it's neither. –  FumbleFingers Dec 13 '12 at 23:29
    
@FumbleFingers: Good point. I concentrated on the "no more" part, and not the "may" part. So let me rephrase my concluding remark: According to the (original) sentence, there is a possibility that neither of those is any more difficult than the other. –  J.R. Dec 14 '12 at 1:38
    
Exactly. It's entirely a matter of context how strong that possibility is, of course - but if the possibility is strong enough to say "it is probable that...", you'd just phrase it as "it may well be...". And even if it's not very likely at all, "it still might be..." –  FumbleFingers Dec 14 '12 at 1:52
    
...I must admit I actually have only a hazy idea of what claiming a feeling that is felt is supposed to mean, but from the structure of the sentence, I gather OP thinks it's not hard to do. But when it comes to a feeling that is not felt I just think we're in the land of bad translations. –  FumbleFingers Dec 14 '12 at 2:02

This is a Comparative construction, identifiable by more in one conjunct, and than introducing the other. The no is simply negation of the entire comparison. As usual, a lot has been left out and switched around by various syntactic processes.

A stab at something like the original structure is the following monstrosity:

  • For indef to claim in words a feeling which indef does not feel may not be more difficult than for indef to claim in words a feeling which indef feels.

The no more difficult is a negative idiom appearing in the first conjunct instead of negating the entire comparison.

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