可能性は少なくない vs. 可能性は高い

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May 30, 2011 11:59 Japanese_language 二重否定 「少ない」 「小さい」 「今回」 「この」
I came across an expression, 可能性は少なくない, in today’s Asahi newspaper. It means that the possibility of ... is not small. It is a kind of double negative. Generally, double negatives make sentences difficult to understand, so 少なくない does not seem to be often used. I looked it up in the article search in Asahi and Nikkei.

可能性は少なくない
0 in the past year (except for the one mentioned) in Asahi
7 in the past 5 years in Nikkei
Old description:[This “this one” means “the example of this time.” In Japanese, to avoid confusions people usually use “this” and “this time” differently; however, I do not know such cases in English. In Japanese, people do [will? would?] not write “この例”, but rather “今回の例” to prevent confusions.]

可能性は小さくない
1 in the past year in Asahi
18 in the past 5 years in Nikkei

可能性は低くない
3 in the past 1 year in Asahi
6 in the past 5 years in Nikkei

Well, why did a writer of Asahi use such a rare phrase today? I think that it is a kind of honorific. The [That?] article was as follows.
温氏の首相としての任期は2013年春まで。中国指導者には引退後も行動に制約がつきまとい、その海外訪問の機会は多くない。(中略)これが最後の訪日となる可能性は少なくない。
Chinese PM Wen Jiabao’s tenure of office is until 2013 spring. As there are many restrictions to Chinese leaders in their actions even after they are retired, they have few opportunities to visit abroad. ... It is highly possible that this will be his last visit to Japan.

If that sentence is written as:
これが最後の訪日となる可能性が高い。
It sounds like his misfortune is desired so it lacks respect for a foreign leader.


A bonus:

可能性は小さい
13 in the past year in Asahi
290 in the past 5 years in Nikkei

可能性は少ない
16 in the past year in Asahi
79 in the past 5 years in Nikkei

可能性は高い
84 in the past year in Asahi
429 in the past 5 years in Nikkei

可能性は大きい
10 in the past year in Asahi
114 in the past 5 years in Nikkei


I heard that even advanced learners of Japanese would not understand [have understood?] the following sentence.
4時にならなければ帰ってきません。
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