2

Multiple times I've read dialogs like this example:

— This conjecture hasn't been proved.

Yes it has been proved in 2003.

This seems odd to me: the answerer first says "yes", but proceeds to contradict his own beginning. I'd suppose the answer should rather have been something like "No, it has been proved in 2003.", meaning "You're wrong, it has been proved in 2003."

Is it actually normal usage of "yes" in English?

7
  • 5
    'Yes it has' and 'No it hasn't' (said with the correct tone) are standard conversational correctives. 'Oh yes it has' veers towards the comic, probably because of the pantomime use. // 'Yes it has' etc with a different tone are affirmatives. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 15:17
  • 1
    In languages like Japanese, the expected answer would be “No, it has been proved”, since no in those languages means “I disagree with the notion expressed in the question/statement that I am replying to”. In other languages, like English, no generally means “regardless of whether I agree with the question/statement or not, my reply will be a negative one”. Other languages, like Middle English, have four different words, differing not only in whether you’re giving a positive or negative answer, but also in whether you’re answer a positive or negative question/statement. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 16:04
  • The conjecture hasn't been proved. "Yeah, right! Jones proved it in 2003."
    – Airymouse
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 17:42
  • The answer says "yes" because the original statement said "no", and it's contradicting it.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 18:51
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How to answer a negative question without ambiguity?
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 15:24

2 Answers 2

8

According to On the syntax of yes and no in English (alt link: download PDF), English uses the polarity-based system, in contrast to languages like Japanese that use the truth-based system. (This is exactly what Janus Bahs Jacquet alludes to in their comment.)

The reply, in your case, does not get its polarity from the original statement. Instead, its polarity comes from the word "yes", (so it's not wrong to say it that way).

2

It is normal usage in English.

I know that in French 'si' is used instead of 'oui' for 'yes' when it contradicts a negative, but English doesn't make that distinction. [1]

1
  • An 'answer' requires supporting evidence (though this is probably not a suitable question for ELU). Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 15:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.