Jump to content
linguaholic

Do you have words for "yes" and "no" in your language?

Recommended Posts

This question might sound a little bit stupid for some: Do you have words for "yes" and "no" in your language?

This question is actually not as trivial as it sounds because some languages actually do NOT have a single word for 'yes' and another single word for 'no'. How can this be? Well, in some languages, the answer to a specific question has to be given according to the words used in the original question. How are questions raised and answered in your language? Please let everybody know and provide some examples!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know English has lots of different words for "no", but not in Dutch or Polish.
Both languages are quite direct, so if you use a different word for "ja"/"tak" or "nee"/"nie", people won't understand.
Well, with obvious exceptions like "(in)correct" or "absolutely (not)" of course, but as long as it's clear to the listener.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This question might sound a little bit stupid for some: Do you have words for "yes" and "no" in your language?

This question is actually not as trivial as it sounds because some languages actually do NOT have a single word for 'yes' and another single word for 'no'. How can this be? Well, in some languages, the answer to a specific question has to be given according to the words used in the original question. How are questions raised and answered in your language? Please let everybody know and provide some examples!

Oh! I actually thought that my native tongue (Filipino/Tagalog) was pretty straightforward when it comes to yes or no. Our direct translation for yes is "oo", and for no, it's "hindi".  However when you mentioned that in some languages it would depend on the specific question asked, I realized that we do have other words for yes or no. For example, when asking if someone has a pen, he/she could simply answer yes or no in English, but in Tagalog, the correct terms to use would be "meron" to say "yes" and "wala" to say "no" instead of oo/hindi. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mostly Polish and Russian are pretty direct, there's a word for "no" and a word for "yes". There may be some subtleties, like saying "thank you" meaning "no" to an offer - that's something I was surprised to hear in Poland. In Russian, if you only reply with "thank you", it means in 99% that you said "yes" to the offer of something.

Then there's also a way to say "Yes?" in Russian which equals to a very doubtful "Oh really?" in English.

But in general no is нет, yes is да, and those are quite straightforward.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes. In my native language 'Yes' is 'Ya' and 'No' is 'Tidak'.
I can't believe some languages don't have 'Yes' or 'No' though. Like that must be very confusing for it's speakers. I genuinely wonder how they communicate effectively without those words considering how vital they are in a normal and standard daily conversation. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes. In my native language 'Yes' is 'Ya' and 'No' is 'Tidak'.
I can't believe some languages don't have 'Yes' or 'No' though. Like that must be very confusing for it's speakers. I genuinely wonder how they communicate effectively without those words considering how vital they are in a normal and standard daily conversation. 

The question isn't "are there any languages that don't have a 'yes' or 'no'", the question is "are there any language that have an alternative way to say 'yes' or 'no'".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The question isn't "are there any languages that don't have a 'yes' or 'no'", the question is "are there any language that have an alternative way to say 'yes' or 'no'".

Oh my, I'm very sorry! My eyes were strained (I don't work well with an all white background and I couldn't find an option to change the theme) so I couldn't focus properly. 
God, I'm blind.  To answer the question though, yes there is. I was reading up on languages and apparently in Irish there is no 'Yes' or 'No'. Let me quote it here.

--


THERE'S NO "YES" OR "NO" IN IRISH.

There are no words for "yes" or "no" in Irish, but that doesn't mean there's no way to answer a question. You communicate "yes" and "no" with a verb form. The answer to "did they sell the house?" would be "(they) sold " or "(they) didn't sell." In Irish:

Ar dhíol sian an teach?
Dhíol.
Níor dhíol.

--

So I suppose that's an alternative way of saying 'Yes' and 'No'.

But for Indonesian, which is my mother tongue, I can at least confirm that the words that I mentioned earlier, 'Ya' for 'Yes' and 'No' for 'Tidak' is all we have for 'Yes' and 'No'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 In Italian yes is "Si" but when someone say something like "Today the wather is good" you can say "Si" or simply "Già", which is an affermative word to "confirm" it. Obviously like in english you can say Certamente, Certo (Surely, of course).

"No" in Italian is "No", like English :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh yeah I hate this about Chinese.

The closest you can get to a universal "yes" would be 對 - this translates as "correct". So it's not really yes but you can generally reply to most yes-or-no questions.

There is no universal word for no as far as I know. Negative reply (or "no") would depend on how the question was asked. Which is a bummer when you're starting out. As you get better I'd say it makes the language more "colorful".

That's the only language I know of that doesn't have a direct word for "yes" and "no"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Czech we do have yes and no.. Ano and ne.. I didn't know there are languages that don't have such important words! Cool! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes in Bulgarian is Da and No is ne but we shake our heads back to front and also tut for no which is another thing I've not come across in other languages. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Setswana, it's pretty basic in that we have the equivalents and no variations:

No = Nnyaa

Yes = Ee

The only variations that come to mind are intonations, depending on how strongly we agree or disagree with what's being said. For instance, the pitch rises considerably when we agree or disagree strongly. So distinct is this that my husband picked on it although he doesn't speak fluent Setswana. He actually thought that that signifies the conversation becoming heated, like in a war of words, which isn't always the case LOL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My mother language is Spanish and yes, we do have words for yes and no ;)  Spanish is very simple language, not complex at all. So for Yes we have have ''Si'' and for No we have ''No''.   Spanish is a very straightforward language, nothing special.  My future husband has already learnt how to say yes and no, lol. It's so funny!    I guess we are both lucky we don't have super  complex languages as mother languages.   

So yes, you can answer a lot questions with a simple yes or no ;)   Perfect for the monosyllabic person who is not a big fan of small talk. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/4/2015, 8:51:05, Richard.H said:

Oh yeah I hate this about Chinese.

The closest you can get to a universal "yes" would be 對 - this translates as "correct". So it's not really yes but you can generally reply to most yes-or-no questions.

There is no universal word for no as far as I know. Negative reply (or "no") would depend on how the question was asked. Which is a bummer when you're starting out. As you get better I'd say it makes the language more "colorful".

That's the only language I know of that doesn't have a direct word for "yes" and "no"

 

That sounds so complex! I had heard Chinese is so hard to learn for several reasons, I guess this is one of them.  I truly admire those who are learning this language and those who have been studying for years without giving up.  Truly admirable!    I know for sure I'd never dare to learn Chinese, the script would be the first barrier ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I honestly don't think Chinese would be as difficult as you say it is.
Like, what is easier to remember the word for that tool to remove the cap of a bottle? "Decapper" (French way) or "open bottle tool" (Chinese way)? :)
On the other hand: "United States" in Chinese is "美国" (lit. "nice kingdom"), which makes much fewer sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Trellum said:

 

That sounds so complex! I had heard Chinese is so hard to learn for several reasons, I guess this is one of them.  I truly admire those who are learning this language and those who have been studying for years without giving up.  Truly admirable!    I know for sure I'd never dare to learn Chinese, the script would be the first barrier ;) 

I would call it "hard but simple" hahaha. I would have agreed with you on the script part a few years back, but now I think it's actually not that difficult. It's more scary than anything. But as long as you start that's basically half work done.

The other one is stick with it and actually practice on daily basis.

The hardest thing for ME would be listening. It really takes the longest time to get used to. 3 reasons I would mention here, obviously the tones (unless you already know a tone-based language this will prove rather tricky to get used to), the fact that everything sounds the same! hahaha (different words have different pronunciation of course, but they are still very close to each other with minimal difference, example: q, j; ch, zh; n, ng; shi, she....it really takes some getting used to being able to really hear the difference), finally there are words with the same pronunciation and the same spelling (usually different character though, but not always) but they mean different things!

So 1. tone changes the meaning, 2. words sound very much alike and again the meaning is different, 3. same pronunciation (tones and everything) yet different meaning again.

Now of course, literally billions of people speak Chinese, so it's not impossible to learn it, it's just a very slow process with getting used to the above. Especially if you don't live in Chinese speaking country.

Compare with that, I find the writing to be not so bad :D

17 hours ago, Blaveloper said:

I honestly don't think Chinese would be as difficult as you say it is.
Like, what is easier to remember the word for that tool to remove the cap of a bottle? "Decapper" (French way) or "open bottle tool" (Chinese way)? :)
On the other hand: "United States" in Chinese is "美国" (lit. "nice kingdom"), which makes much fewer sense.

yeah perhaps you're right there. It would be easier if you didn't have to remember 3 characters and the tones for these 3 :D

"Open car" means to drive. So I agree with you in a sense that the logic is easy or rather simple. But wouldn't go so far as to say easy to remember. Perhaps the English translations are easier to remember since they are so interesting :D

Just for the record I think "王国" means "kingdom", but "美国" should mean "beautiful country" if I'm not mistaken. I think the reason for this (and this is merely an educated guess) is that when America was discovered it was nice and beautiful and unspoiled. So calling it "beautiful country" was not so far fetched I think. What it is now is a topic for another time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
59 minutes ago, Richard.H said:

I would call it "hard but simple" hahaha. I would have agreed with you on the script part a few years back, but now I think it's actually not that difficult. It's more scary than anything. But as long as you start that's basically half work done.

The other one is stick with it and actually practice on daily basis.

The hardest thing for ME would be listening. It really takes the longest time to get used to. 3 reasons I would mention here, obviously the tones (unless you already know a tone-based language this will prove rather tricky to get used to), the fact that everything sounds the same! hahaha (different words have different pronunciation of course, but they are still very close to each other with minimal difference, example: q, j; ch, zh; n, ng; shi, she....it really takes some getting used to being able to really hear the difference), finally there are words with the same pronunciation and the same spelling (usually different character though, but not always) but they mean different things!

So 1. tone changes the meaning, 2. words sound very much alike and again the meaning is different, 3. same pronunciation (tones and everything) yet different meaning again.

Now of course, literally billions of people speak Chinese, so it's not impossible to learn it, it's just a very slow process with getting used to the above. Especially if you don't live in Chinese speaking country.

Compare with that, I find the writing to be not so bad :D

yeah perhaps you're right there. It would be easier if you didn't have to remember 3 characters and the tones for these 3 :D

"Open car" means to drive. So I agree with you in a sense that the logic is easy or rather simple. But wouldn't go so far as to say easy to remember. Perhaps the English translations are easier to remember since they are so interesting :D

Just for the record I think "王国" means "kingdom", but "美国" should mean "beautiful country" if I'm not mistaken. I think the reason for this (and this is merely an educated guess) is that when America was discovered it was nice and beautiful and unspoiled. So calling it "beautiful country" was not so far fetched I think. What it is now is a topic for another time.

The etymology of country names is such a fascinating topic, isn't it? In case of 美国, it is an abbreviation for 美利坚合众国, which stands for The United States of America. But then we still have to find out why it was called like this in the first place. I will ask my Chinese Professor about it (If I have the chance to see him again). 

regards

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Richard.H said:

I would call it "hard but simple" hahaha. I would have agreed with you on the script part a few years back, but now I think it's actually not that difficult. It's more scary than anything. But as long as you start that's basically half work done.

The other one is stick with it and actually practice on daily basis.

The hardest thing for ME would be listening. It really takes the longest time to get used to. 3 reasons I would mention here, obviously the tones (unless you already know a tone-based language this will prove rather tricky to get used to), the fact that everything sounds the same! hahaha (different words have different pronunciation of course, but they are still very close to each other with minimal difference, example: q, j; ch, zh; n, ng; shi, she....it really takes some getting used to being able to really hear the difference), finally there are words with the same pronunciation and the same spelling (usually different character though, but not always) but they mean different things!

So 1. tone changes the meaning, 2. words sound very much alike and again the meaning is different, 3. same pronunciation (tones and everything) yet different meaning again.

Now of course, literally billions of people speak Chinese, so it's not impossible to learn it, it's just a very slow process with getting used to the above. Especially if you don't live in Chinese speaking country.

Compare with that, I find the writing to be not so bad :D

yeah perhaps you're right there. It would be easier if you didn't have to remember 3 characters and the tones for these 3 :D

"Open car" means to drive. So I agree with you in a sense that the logic is easy or rather simple. But wouldn't go so far as to say easy to remember. Perhaps the English translations are easier to remember since they are so interesting :D

Just for the record I think "王国" means "kingdom", but "美国" should mean "beautiful country" if I'm not mistaken. I think the reason for this (and this is merely an educated guess) is that when America was discovered it was nice and beautiful and unspoiled. So calling it "beautiful country" was not so far fetched I think. What it is now is a topic for another time.

The etymology of country names is such a fascinating topic, isn't it? In case of 美国, it is an abbreviation for 美利坚合众国, which stands for The United States of America. But then we still have to find out why it was called like this in the first place. However, 美利坚合众国 is phonetically much closer to America than 美国 and it is no secret that foreign names, places, etc often get translated in a phonetical kind of way rather than in a semantic one. 

 I will ask my Chinese Professor about it (If I have the chance to see him again). 

regards

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, linguaholic said:

The etymology of country names is such a fascinating topic, isn't it? In case of 美国, it is an abbreviation for 美利坚合众国, which stands for The United States of America. But then we still have to find out why it was called like this in the first place. However, 美利坚合众国 is phonetically much closer to America than 美国 and it is no secret that foreign names, places, etc often get translated in a phonetical kind of way rather than in a semantic one. 

 I will ask my Chinese Professor about it (If I have the chance to see him again). 

regards

I see! Didn't know about that! Cool stuff, thanks for sharing

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/12/2015, 5:08:20, Richard.H said:

I would call it "hard but simple" hahaha. I would have agreed with you on the script part a few years back, but now I think it's actually not that difficult. It's more scary than anything. But as long as you start that's basically half work done.

The other one is stick with it and actually practice on daily basis.

The hardest thing for ME would be listening. It really takes the longest time to get used to. 3 reasons I would mention here, obviously the tones (unless you already know a tone-based language this will prove rather tricky to get used to), the fact that everything sounds the same! hahaha (different words have different pronunciation of course, but they are still very close to each other with minimal difference, example: q, j; ch, zh; n, ng; shi, she....it really takes some getting used to being able to really hear the difference), finally there are words with the same pronunciation and the same spelling (usually different character though, but not always) but they mean different things!

So 1. tone changes the meaning, 2. words sound very much alike and again the meaning is different, 3. same pronunciation (tones and everything) yet different meaning again.

Now of course, literally billions of people speak Chinese, so it's not impossible to learn it, it's just a very slow process with getting used to the above. Especially if you don't live in Chinese speaking country.

Compare with that, I find the writing to be not so bad :D

yeah perhaps you're right there. It would be easier if you didn't have to remember 3 characters and the tones for these 3 :D

"Open car" means to drive. So I agree with you in a sense that the logic is easy or rather simple. But wouldn't go so far as to say easy to remember. Perhaps the English translations are easier to remember since they are so interesting :D

Just for the record I think "王国" means "kingdom", but "美国" should mean "beautiful country" if I'm not mistaken. I think the reason for this (and this is merely an educated guess) is that when America was discovered it was nice and beautiful and unspoiled. So calling it "beautiful country" was not so far fetched I think. What it is now is a topic for another time.

 

Ugh, I got nauseous just thinking of that, lol.  Gosh, I repeat it: I respect those who are learning this language so much!    It takes a lot courage and motivation to do so, something not many people have.  I definitely don't :P  I could only imagine myself learning Chinese if I really had to. 

 

@Blaveloper   Aren't you learning spanish anymore? What happened? :( 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Trellum said:

Aren't you learning spanish anymore? What happened? :( 

I felt like I wasn't interested enough in Spanish.
I realised once again that my favourite languages are mostly east-Asian.
Other than that, I found too many words similar to English and that made me skip them from my "to learn" vocabulary flash cards (not putting any effort in remembering those words).

But it's not like I gave up on it entirely, what I initialise must be finalised at some point ey?
So I thought to postpone Spanish rather than quitting it entirely.

As my current schedule looks like:
January - June 2016: Mandarin Chinese.
July - December 2016: Russian.
January - June 2017: European Spanish.
July - December 2017: European French.

And for 2018, I'll decide whether I want to learn new languages or improve my 'old' languages (old as of 2018 of course).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, Blaveloper said:

I felt like I wasn't interested enough in Spanish.
I realised once again that my favourite languages are mostly east-Asian.
Other than that, I found too many words similar to English and that made me skip them from my "to learn" vocabulary flash cards (not putting any effort in remembering those words).

But it's not like I gave up on it entirely, what I initialise must be finalised at some point ey?
So I thought to postpone Spanish rather than quitting it entirely.

As my current schedule looks like:
January - June 2016: Mandarin Chinese.
July - December 2016: Russian.
January - June 2017: European Spanish.
July - December 2017: European French.

And for 2018, I'll decide whether I want to learn new languages or improve my 'old' languages (old as of 2018 of course).

Wow, you seem really motivated in learning new languages. I was just wondering how much previous experience you've had with Chinese in general? I noticed that you commented on the translation of the United States as well as the "decapper" and seem to already have a basic understanding. A lot of East-Asian languages seem interesting, but I've been a bit intimidated by the different characters and tonal quality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, aliangel3499 said:

Wow, you seem really motivated in learning new languages. I was just wondering how much previous experience you've had with Chinese in general? I noticed that you commented on the translation of the United States as well as the "decapper" and seem to already have a basic understanding. A lot of East-Asian languages seem interesting, but I've been a bit intimidated by the different characters and tonal quality.

Beside the fact the Japanese language has something called "Chinese reading" for their Kanji (Chinese characters), I have a very, very, very little experience with Chinese.
I know the basic grammar structure, some basic sentences, the fact it has 4 tones + 1 neutral 'tone' and I had around 4 or 5 Skype sessions in Chinese last year.

Oh, and I can type Chinese, but that's it for now. :P

我想要学中文。 (Wǒ xiǎng yào xué zhōngwén.) - I want to learn Chinese.
(Not even sure this is correct lol.)

Edit: adding in that Korean and Japanese don't have any tones in their languages, while still being classified as "east-Asian".
And both of these languages have a much less scary character sets (since both have one or more alphabets unlike Chinese).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a direct translation of `yes' and `no' in Swahili. They are `ndio' and `la' respectively. On the other hand the direct translation for yes in Chinese-pinyin is `Shi' (first tone) while for no is 'bu shi'. You need to check for the character representations of the Chinese words. It is much fan drawing them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are there a lot of languages like this? Not having a set word or at least a phrase for "yes" and "no" is just beyond comprehension for me. I don't think I'd know how to learn a language like that, let alone speak it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...