Posted by Doc on November 04, 2003
In Reply to: I do think so! posted by Henry on November 04, 2003
: : : My question is related to the use of the construct 'is it not the ...'.
: : : I hear this most often in parliamentary debate with the phrase 'Is it not the case that ...'.
: : : Why is the 'not' used?
: : : Both of the phrases 'Is it the case that ...' and 'Is not the case that ...' can be answered with a Yes or No answer. So I remain confused as to why the more convoluted form is more commonly used.
: : : Is the 'not' used just to generate a comfortable rhythm to the question?
: : I've never understood this one either. I await clarification with great interest!
: "Is it the case that" begins an enquiry. The enquirer does not the answer, which may be yes or no.
: "Is it not the case that" begins a rhetorical question. The speaker believes that the statement which follows is correct.
: It is difficult to answer a negative question without ambiguity. Don't you think so?
: If you agree, the usual answer is "Yes", meaning "Yes, I do think so" instead of the strictly literal meaning "Yes, I don't think so."
I rather suspect it is rhetorical, linguistic style perhaps. (There is a quite serious mathmatical discussion of not and not-not at http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_10_03.html)