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No is the negative answer to a question that can be answered positively or negatively ( decision-making question ), and thus means the negation of the positively formulated statement, the truth of which is being asked. With regard to speech acts , the word “no” has different meanings; it often expresses a contradiction or asks to refrain from an activity. The opposite of no is yes .

Regarding the part of speech , “no” is one of the particles .


“No” is a hereditary word and therefore belongs to the oldest stock of the German vocabulary and its equivalents in other Indo-European languages are often very similar in terms of sound. The word “no” is already used in this form or in the form “nain” in Old High German before the 9th century.

The word arose as a combination of the negation particle “ni” (as it also occurs in the words “not”, “never” and “nobody”) and the indefinite article “a” and thus originally meant “not one”.

Linguistic functions of the word "no"

Syntactic functions

Usually “no” leads to a negative sentence or a negative sentence-valued phrase such as “no, that's not so” or “no, you don't.” In syntactic terms, the word “no” itself has a sentence-valued status, so it corresponds when used alone a complete sentence (“No!”) or has the function of a partial sentence (“No, that's not so”).

Logical functions

  • "No" negates a positive question:
"Are you going to the swimming pool today?" - "No!" Or "No, I'm not going to the swimming pool today."
  • "No" confirms a negative question:
"Aren't you coming to the swimming pool today?" - "No, I'm not going to the swimming pool".
Colloquially, the semantically opposite yes is often used for such cases . (“Yes, I'm not going to the swimming pool today”.) The “yes” does not refer to the meaning expressed in one's own sentence, but rather signals the confirmation of the previous question from the other person.
(The negation of a negative question with yet made: "Are you coming today is not the pool" - "Yes, I come today with the swimming pool.")

Questions that are not decisive and contain an “either / or” cannot be answered logically and conclusively with “no”. ("Are you coming or are you staying here?")

With "no" a previous statement is negated. Logically, double negations of statements correspond to an affirmation. These often appear in dialectal language , but here they express an emphasis on negation. To realize a double negative, other words with a negative meaning such as “no” or “not” are required. ("I'm not an idiot!")

Pragmatic functions

Depending on the linguistic context or the speech act , the word “no” can be used with different pragmatic meanings; in terms of sentence semantics , the word then also takes on a different modal character. "No" can signal the following speech actions:

  • Contradicting a statement ("Germany was divided until 1989." - "No, it was divided until 1990, then came reunification.")
  • Objecting to a call to action ("Come here and help me!" - "No!")
  • Request to prevent or end an action ("No, not!")
  • Expression of emotional sensitivities such as astonishment, surprise, joy, etc. ("No, that's not possible!", "No, that's nice!")

As a constituent element of the conversation, “no” can express a connection to a conversation: “I bought apples in the store.” - “No. I really enjoy going to the market. "

Depending on the communicative situation, a “no” can also be deliberately avoided linguistically. The reasons for this lie in the rules of etiquette. A single “no” is often considered too rigorous, impolite or inappropriate for other reasons, so that in such cases the negation in the linguistic expression is weakened and formulated more carefully. For example, in the case of requests and requests, explanations and justifications are offered: “Can you tell me what time it is?” - “No, unfortunately not, I don't have a watch with me.” If there is an authoritarian gradient between two speakers, will When asked, a “no” is interpreted as disobedience or felt contrary to the social rules: The call to action “Could you please refrain from doing that?” is therefore usually not followed by a “no”, at least without an explanation.

A reduplication of “no” (“no, no”) has different informative value, which also depends very much on paraverbal moments. On the one hand, the doubling - just like the double negation - has an intensifying character, but paradoxically at the same time takes back the harsh, impolite accompanying tone that a single "no" may have. As an enhanced variant, “no, no” can mean appeasement. On the other hand, a “no, no” uttered with the appropriate tone of voice can also express an ignoring or devaluing what the interlocutor said more clearly than a single “no”.

Semantic equivalents for "no"


As synonyms for the answer particles “no”, which are valid for all varieties of German , expressions such as “by no means”, “by no means” or “impossible” are given. The expressions "denkste" (from "(das) you think") and "Pustekuchen", which are mainly used in Germany, are largely synonymous with "no".

As a corresponding response to questions, formulations are also common that express a rejection in a manner appropriate to the topic and the speaking situation, such as "That is wrong", "That is not true" or "That is nonsense" etc., but all of which express more than a mere logical negation by "no".

Frequently used dialectal variants of the word “no” are “nee”, “nö”, “nää” or “naa”.

For the noun “(the) no”, which is derived from the particle word, “rejection”, “disapproval” and “prohibition” are given as synonyms.

Paraverbal equivalents

A paraverbal utterance, the meaning of which corresponds to a “no”, is the realization of two successive sounds , the pitch of the first sound being higher than that of the following. When the lips are closed, these sounds correspond roughly to an "ʕm-ʕm", when the mouth is open they take on the sound quality of a Schwa ([ʕɛ-ʕɛ]).

A brief, voiced expulsion of air from the larynx can also mean a prompting “No!” Or “Not!”. The semantics of such paraverbal utterances can, however, be culture-specific. For example, in Japanese, the expulsion of air does not signal a negation, but a change of speaker and means something like "Now you can talk".

Nonverbal Correspondences

The body language expression for rejections and negations is culture-dependent to a certain extent. In many countries, a short sideways turn of the head in both directions ( shaking the head ) is used as an expression for "no", in others it is used to pull the forehead back, which can be misinterpreted by strangers as a nod , ie as a "yes". In some Asian countries, nodding is used as an expression for negation. In Bulgaria, for example, nodding is also used as a negation and shaking the head as an affirmation.

More body language expressions of "no" with a different meaning content by means of said accompanying gesture . For example, it is common to briefly move the outstretched index finger upwards (with the inside facing the conversation partner) to and fro or to extend an open hand towards you with the fingers pointing upwards. The latter can express both friendly defense and encouraging stopping areas. The difference lies in the position of the arm: the elbow is strongly bent and the hand is close to the body when the arm is stretched out, and when the arm is rejected, for example, or in the case of appeasement.

Social significance - "No" as a political slogan

Advertising posters for the vote “No” in the referendum for a European constitution in France in 2005

In situations of political struggle, such as referendums on the approval or rejection of a political project, the opponents of an idea often use a simple, stand-alone "No" as a political slogan . The context of this “no” becomes generally known through a broad media and social discussion; The “no” can have an opinion-forming effect through its short, absolute conciseness and also convey emotional involvement. At the same time, the slogan-like character of "No" accommodates the tendency of the mass media to simplify topics in terms of content and appearance.

A striking example of such a case is the referendum on the Treaty on a Constitution for Europe in France in spring 2005. After months of exchanging pros and cons arguments, the days immediately before the election were mainly about using of an “Oui” or “Non” to express one's personal convictions and thus to influence voters who are still undecided.

A “no” can sometimes take on an emblematic character in volatile political decision-making situations, as was the case in Greece during World War II . On a certain day, when the incumbent head of state countered an opposing political ultimatum on the part of fascist Italy with a concise “no”, this “no” became a national symbol of resistance and independence. This day, October 28, has since been celebrated as a day of remembrance and is called " Ochi Day " ("Day of No").

Frequency of use

The answer particle “no” has a word frequency of 2 9 = 512, that is, the word most frequently used in German (“der”) is used around 500 times more often than the word “no”. "No" is used around 17 times in 1 million words in German texts.

The ten most common collocations in written German texts, i.e. words that are used together with “no”, or typical expressions with these words together with “no”, are the following:

Collocation typical twist Frequency
per 1 million words
say "say no" 3.11
Yes "Yes or no" 2.87
Not "no, not ..." 2.38
but "No, but ...", "but no" 1.63
No "No no" 1.46
oh oh "Oh no" 0.85
to thank "no thanks" 0.53
I "I (say, my ...) no", "no, I ..." 0.49
Unfortunately "Unfortunately, no" 0.16
Oh "Oh no" 0.12

"No" in the languages ​​of the world

“No” is a basic word in almost all languages. Because of its communicative significance and its basic semantics and thus frequent use, the word is usually short for linguistic reasons. Since "no" can also serve as an urgent request to refrain from an action, the brevity of the word is advantageous in dangerous situations for biological reasons (protection of life).

In almost all Indo-European languages, the word for "no" begins with the consonant [n], for example in the following languages:

One exception is Greek , for example , where the word for “no” is ochi (óχι).

In non-Indo-European languages, other sound sequences are used for “no”, such as

In Latin , where the word “no” does not exist, the phrase ita non est (= “that's not the way it is”) is used in its place , i.e. an entire negative statement. Also in Indonesian there is no actual word for “no”; There are, however, the negation particles tidak (“not”) and bukan (“none”), which, however, are rarely used alone. It is better to answer belum (“not yet”), sudah (“already”), tidak mau (“don't want”, “won't”) etc. The situation is similar in Chinese , where a qualified refusal is the same as in Latin has to say a little sentence: bù shì (不是) (“it's not like that”).

In the English-speaking world, it is not common to negate a question with a single "No"; The “No” is usually supplemented by a phrase, so that negations in forms such as “No, I'm not.”, “No, it isn't.”, “No, we don't.” etc. are carried out become.

See also

Web links

Commons : No  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: no  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: No  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 24th edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2002.
  2. Duden: The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language. 4th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2006. - Etymological dictionary of German , developed under the direction of Wolfgang Pfeifer, 7th edition. dtv, Munich 2004.
  3. a b c “Vocabulary portal ” at the University of Leipzig ( memento of the original from September 13, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed January 14, 2011. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. online dictionary , accessed on January 14, 2011.
  5. a b Research in the German reference corpus from January 14, 2011.
  6. This refers to so-called conceptually written texts, i.e. those that are typically produced in writing, such as literary texts, newspaper articles, etc.