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According to the DPD, there are differences in the usage of tampoco before and after the verb:

When it goes before the verb, it is incorrect its usage followed by the adverb "no", i.e. with the verb in negative form: «Entonces tampoco no existía ninguna solicitud de mediación» (Semana [Col.] 21-28.1.97); it should be said tampoco existía ninguna solicitud de mediación. Nonetheless, it is used with the verb in negative form when it goes after it: Entonces no existía tampoco ninguna solicitud de mediación.

Why is that? If "tampoco" already has a negative connotation, why the need to duplicate the negation when it goes after the verb, but not when it goes before it? Is there any historical reason for that?

Other words (thanks to mdewey and this answer) that have the same issue: nunca, jamás, nadie, nada, ninguno, the group en la/mi/tu/su vida and the groups containing the word ni. Examples:

  • Nunca iré a Japón / No iré nunca a Japón.
  • En la vida me casaré contigo / No me casaré contigo en la vida.
  • Ni loco me monto ahí / No me montó ahí ni loco.
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    The answer to this question here suggests that the issue is more widespread than just tampoco but it does not give the historical context you ask for. – mdewey Oct 19 '16 at 12:37
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That type of double negation is pretty common in Spanish and it just reinforce the negation, like saying "I won't do that by any means". But I have to say that when you are writing or simply when you are at a formal environment is frowned upon, I wouldn't use it while spoken or writing a letter to a client, and will reduce it to one simple negation using something like this:

  • Entonces tampoco existía solicitud alguna de mediación

And for the other examples using the first one possibility:

  • Nunca iré a Japón
  • Nunca me casaré contigo(more formal) / En la vida me casaré contigo(more informal but not so much, en la vida can be an informal expression in itself)

About the history, I can not be too much precise, I simply don't have the knowledge, but notice that double negation was used in the "castellano antiguo"(old Castillian) in medieval age. You can see it in many books and it seems I have been able to find a reference online speaking about all this: double negation google books.

Even though I don't know the referenced book nor the author, I've read books from that age in old castillian and they used double negations, so you can assure that it's at least older than the XVI century, and I can remember for sure that in the "Cantar del mio Cid" they used double negations too. That's about the XIII century.

So, yeah, pretty old.

PS: About a poem from "Cantar del mio Cid":

Conbidar le ien de grado, mas ninguno non osava:
el rey don Alfonsso tanto avie le grand saña.
Antes de la noche en Burgos dél entró su carta,
con gran recabdo e fuertemientre seellada:
que a mio Cid Roy Díaz que nadi nol diessen posada.


I thought I should translate that old Castillian to nowadays Spanish. I'll do it with the little I remember, so if someone feels like correcting it, go, and forget my poetry skills please ;)

Le invitarían de buen grado, pero ninguno no osaba:
tal era la saña que el rey don Alfonso le tenía.
Antes de caer la noche, a Burgos del rey llegó una carta,
a buen recaudo y bien cerrada:
que al mio Cid Roy Díaz nadie no le diese posada.

Notice that those double negations are not used nowadays, and are not correct nowadays, but they're in my opinion a clear signal of how older and common are that type of "constructions" in Spanish.

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  • Thank you very much for you answer, you surely took some time to write it and I appreciate it. But I'm not sure it addresses the main question. I wasn't asking for the reasons to write the double negation itself, or the origin of the double negation, but for the reason about why when the adverb precedes the verb you don't have to write the double negation, but you have to when the adverb goes after the verb. Why the discrepancy? – Charlie Oct 19 '16 at 20:06
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    Oh, I need an embarrased emote right now... I read again your question and seems that I totally misunderstood it. Curious thing is that in that piece of poem I transcribed, the double negation preceded the verb in both cases: "ninguno no" and "nadie no". Therefore there had to be a change at some point, I have no idea when it happened. I can say though that to a present native spanish speaker that form sounds just REALLY bad, you do understand the meaning, but the repetition is too much. I'm sure that reading old castillian books one could figure it out, but it'd be a hell of an investigation. – Nox Oct 19 '16 at 20:56
  • No need to be embarrassed. In fact, the poem is a very interesting starting point, given the fact that the double negation is present, as you say, even when the adverb precedes the verb. It will be an interesting search to find when the double negation was eliminated in that case. – Charlie Oct 19 '16 at 21:03
  • Interesting example but are poems typical of Spanish usage though? For instance in English the song goes "No, no, never, no never no more, will I play the wild rover, no never no more" which since it contain nine negatives should by our rule be equivalent to four yeses and a no. But it clearly is not. – mdewey Oct 20 '16 at 11:35
  • Of course, we don't usually talk using poems :D , and poems are different than common spoken Spanish(you know the phrase "poetic license"), but in this case the double negation in Spanish is not only super common in spoken language, but reflected and regulated by the RAE(with the exception of being frowned upon in formal situations). Also consider that double negations are not only present in poems, but in all type of very old writings. The poem was merely a prove of how old are double negations in Spanish, given that the book is one of the oldest Spanish books that survive nowadays. – Nox Oct 20 '16 at 12:17

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