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I'm translating a sentence of character dialogue from Japanese to English, and came up with two possible translations for the final sentence of the dialogue. Below is the translated dialogue.

"His ability to speak his native language for instance, is because it’s what he may see and understand. Even so for him, when regarding himself he doesn't comprehend in the slightest. Not his name, his family, his friends… he lacks the ability to remember any one of them."

The last line (名前も、 家族も、 友人も…… 何ひとつ思い出せません。) can be translated as either

His name, his family, his friends… he lacks the ability to remember not one of them.

or as shown above in bold

Not his name, his family, his friends… he lacks the ability to remember any one of them.

What are the differences in sentence meaning caused by the different placement of 'not' in the above two sentences?

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    In the first translation, lacks, a negative, precedes and commands not, another negative. That's one negative too many in the clause. In the second translation, the not is in the first part, and the lacks is separate from it, so they reinforce one another the way they do in Chinese. But English negation is very complex. – John Lawler Aug 16 '19 at 3:32
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    "He lacks the ability to remember not one of them" doesn't make sense, it is confusing but equivalent to "he lacks the ability to forget them all". I'd say "he lacks the ability to remember any of them". – nnnnnn Aug 16 '19 at 3:32
  • I would use a colon rather than ellipses. Apples and oranges: he won't eat either. As for the actual sentence, replace not with even. His name, his family, his friends: he lacks the ability to remember even one of them. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 16 '19 at 6:29
  • @nnnnnn But, I would be comfortable saying "I prepared for the quiz on Italian Presidents, but now that you give me the list of names, I can remember not one of them." Perhaps your objection is to the double negative? – djs Sep 16 '19 at 14:39
  • @djs - "I can remember not one of them" is fine. I don't object to double negatives in a general sense, but talking about an ability to remember not one just sounds strange. – nnnnnn Sep 16 '19 at 21:57

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