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2016年2月14日 星期日

doubtful of跟doubtful about真的有分別嗎?


上一篇網誌有些地方解釋得不夠清楚,引致一些網友有所疑惑,所以今天先說一些補充資料以釋讀者的疑惑,然後才入正題。

有網友留言說在網上看到以下說法,似乎與我之前所說的有所出入:

If you really doubt that something is true (suspect it's false), use "doubt that":
I doubt that Fred has really lost 25 pounds.
If you want to express uncertainty, use "whether":
I doubt whether we will see the comet if the clouds don't clear soon.
"Doubt if" can be substituted for "doubt whether," though it's considered somewhat more casual, but don't use it when you mean "doubt that." (Common Errors in English Usage, 2013)

這本書的作者叫Paul Brians,是華盛頓州立大學英文系的榮休教授。他這本書很好找,在網上可以隨便下載,所以看過的人應該很多。留意他這可不只是一家之言,你還可在其他的書上找到類似的說法,例如The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English : Your guide to collocations and grammar

其實整件事情應該這樣看。在英式英語中,當你想在肯定句中表達不確定或懷疑時,你可用連接詞whether,或者隨便點用if也可以。而that只能用於否定句中,意思是堅信某事會發生,這就是Fowler's Modern English Usage所說的standard construction。但在美式英語中,that被廣泛地應用在肯定句中,表示「不認為」,而這用法在現今的英式英語也很常見。英國學者Prof. Sidney GreenbaumJanet Whitcut就提到:

In positive sentences doubt (both verb and noun) and doubtful are correctly followed by whether or, less formally, by if ... In negative sentences, which deny that there is any uncertainty, doubt is followed by that or but that ... In American use, and increasingly in British, doubt that is also used in positive sentences, meaning 'think it unlikely ... In questions, doubt that and doubt whether are both available, according to the degree of likelihood. (Longman Guide to English Usage, 1989)

但是有很多英國人還是對這樣的用法有所保留,我很喜歡的一個英語學者Robert Allen在他的書中就指出:

Many people dislike the increasing use of a that-clause (or a clause with that omitted) after a use of doubt in the affirmative:
?  I doubt that she 'll do it before she's finished her exams.
?  The Prime Minister returned amid growing doubts that the treaty would ever become law in its present form.
?  He doubted it would make any difference.
This usage is widely regarded as an Americanism, but it is found in British English from the end of the 19th century and is now common.  Nonetheless, it remains controversial. (Common Errors and Problems in English, 2008)

不過話雖如此,當我跟另一個英國專家研究時,他卻認為Robert Allen所舉的例子用that並無問題,而且他還告訴我I doubt if其實有I don't think that的意思…是不是有點混亂?那我這話題就說到這裏了,讓大家自己去想想應採納那一種說法。不過,我有點奇怪劉家傑沒詳細解釋當中的原委,畢竟他是學習英式英語的。

轉入正題,諫官前幾天有這樣的一則解說:

Doubtful about 係表示一種懷疑,而 doubtful of 都係表示一種懷疑,不過除咗懷疑,亦都多咗一份恐懼。同埋 doubtful about 並冇講明時間,但 doubtful of 就係表示一種對將來嘅恐懼。

簡單嚟講,如果你對某件事嘅前境或將來冇信心,你都可以用 of,以下是幾個例子:

The coach is doubtful of the tactics.
The boss is doubtful of the marketing plan.
I am doubtful of the agreement.

有網友說此人所寫的東西大部份都抄自劉家傑的《英語一分鐘》節目,他沒說錯!諫官的做法固然反映了本身的學養水平,但更重要是它突顯此人的治學態度。偶像說什麼他都不假思索地照單全收,然後又如獲至寶的教給別人。我說過,劉家傑不是全無錯誤,但偏偏有些人囿於本身水平,以為偶像所說樣樣都是對的,並以之教人賺錢。

我們用上述的doubtful來做例子,看看這解說有些什麼問題。諫官或劉家傑無非是在說:

doubtful of表示担心將來,而doubtful about則表示懷疑現在!

但是否這樣呢?我們試從兩方面去分析。我翻了十多本書都沒發現兩者有些什麼不同,只從MWALD看到以下這例句:

e.g. They were doubtful about the benefits of the new system = They were doubtful of its benefits. (MWALD)

這裏說明了doubtful of 其實等如doubtful about,這是第一點。 諫官又說doubtful of有担心將來的意味,所以他的例子裡面都是一些跟將來有關的東西,如plantactics等!然而,我們卻可從下面的字典例句中找到反證:

e.g.  Many of us are still very doubtful about the value of these new educational strategies. (CALD)
e.g.  I was still very doubtful about the chances for success. (Cobuild)
e.g.  Rose was doubtful about the whole idea. (OALD)

上面的這些名詞如strategieschances for successidea,在目前都還沒知道成効,那我想問聲,為什麼不如諫官所教的用上of呢?

再看一例:

e.g.  Today's doctors, in contrast, are uncertain of their role and doubtful of their abilities and are viewed with increasing suspicion by the population. (ODE)

這裏的ability當然是指現在的能力,那為什麼又不像諫官所說的用上about,而是用了of呢?從以上二方面來看,doubtful of/about並沒有劉家傑所提到的分別。

有趣的是,所有的英式學習型字典都只給了doubtful about這句型,反而Oxford Dictionary of English的所有例句卻用上了doubtful of。所以我認為這兩個用法並非英美之別,而是可以互換使用,但當然一些細微分別還是有的,例如若說到懷疑某人,我會傾向用of

根據Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 6,在幾百年前doubtful確有驚恐的意思,但這用法現在已屬過時。另外說到英語用法的解說,我們應盡量避免以偏概全。記得幾年前,古德明曾經解釋過help sb do sthhelp sb to do sth的分別,當時頗惹爭議,我也為文分析過。古德明當年的說法其實是取材自一個詞典專家George Davidson的一本小書,此人也是MED的編輯之一。不過,他的說法顯然還未被學界所普遍接受,我相信今次doubtful of/about也屬於這類事例。所以我們做研究語言的人,不能一見有一個新的學說就奉為圭皋,而是要小心分析現今英語國家的語言運用習慣趨勢才能下定論。

看見這位小朋友只是抄人家的東西作為自己的教材,然後就可以寫專欄、教高層,賺些輕鬆錢,真的十分感慨。相對來說,我寫一篇文章,要不停翻書,不停上網,不停修改,快則五、六小時,慢則幾天,才能完稿,加上我眼睛不好,每次都寫得相當吃力。可惜看的人還是很少,而且懂欣賞的大多是台灣的朋友。其實我當初寫這網誌的定位是給一些香港的大學生或英語老師看的,但很不幸這些人的品味比較另類,他們喜歡看具知名度人仕的作品,無怪現今香港人的英語水平比三、四十年前退步了那麼多!