Translation:Isn't it cold?
No, this is wrong. "Isn't it cold?" is the best translation. Just like in English, Japanese use the negative sometimes to confirm the opposite belief ("Isn't it cold?" = "I'm cold, you're cold too, right?")
I spoke to a Japanese linguist friend about this. This is what he said:
"(I'm cold,) aren't you cold?" / "Isn't it cold (there)?"
You think it's cold and are looking for confirmation that they think so too.
"You're not cold?" / "It's not cold (there)?"
You expected they'd be cold, but they are clearly demonstrating that they think it's not.
You'd use this with someone who's wearing shorts in Winter, or someone who's just implied that Iceland has a mild climate.
"It isn't cold, is it?" / "You're not cold, right?"
"It isn't cold.... right?"
Basically the same as above, but you'd use it when you're already 95% certain it's not cold.
I'm not sure about what BlueRaja1 has said, since my experience is exactly the opposite of his, but I believe, as do several contacts that speak Japanese, that you are right.
Coming from someone living in Japan currently, if someone asks: 寒くないですか。 You say "はい" if you're comfortable and "いいえ" if you're actually cold.
In english, if you ask "aren't you cold?", you'd say "yes" if you are cold, and "no" if you're comfortable, which is the opposite of the japanese response desired. A better english translation would be "are you not cold", which "yes" means you're comfortable and "no" means you're actually cold.
Thats right, but by saying "isn't it cold", you're implying that you want who you are talking to to agree that it is, which is the opposite of what the Japanese question is asking. Thats why the English translation shouldn't use "isn't" but should use "not cold", since that gives the same repsonse in english as it does in Japanese in order to preserve the same meaning.
Depends if you colloquialize "is it not ..." vs "isn't it ..." More often than not, "isn't" is colloquialized to have the opposite meaning, while "is it [not ...]" is asking wether or not [not cold, bright, etc] is a true statement, which preserves the negative connotation. Some people do colloquialize "not ..." To literally ignore the "not" portion of it, meaning when they ask "is it not cold" they're asking "is it cold", which I find illogical. It's bad enough "isn't" no longer holds its negative connotation in that instance, when when you draw out and specifically say "not...", it drives me insane for people to ignore it. Perhaps that's the logical side of me though.
obviously Japanese is constructed differently, but i think a good analogue would be similar to what one of the first commenters implied:
you see someone going outside wearing shorts, but you're pretty sure it's freezing.
"oh... i could have sworn it was cold. 寒くないですか。 Is it not cold?" or "isn't it cold?" (implication being 'is it not cold, or is it actually cold and you're just dressing crazy?')
"is it not cold?" and "isn't it cold?" are 2 completely different questions. If i asked "is it not cold?" and you said "yes", that means its warm, but if I ask "isn't it cold?" and you say "yes", you're agreeing that it is cold. The Japanese 寒く more closely follows the "is it not cold" rather than "isn't it cold" version, which means DL has it incorrectly translated.
If someone asked me "is it not cold" and I knew it was snowing outside lets say, I'd respond with yes. To me that sentence implies they thought it was cold and they want confirmation that their belief was correct. So this writting structure and comment thread is kind of melting my brain a bit... I'm just going to try translate it as "it's not cold, yeah?" (Even thought i know thats not what it literally says) so that I can wrap my head around it.
So, I've actually had a lot of discussion with people around this, and it turns out it's colloquailized differently by everyone, in both Japanese & English. In your scenario, I'd say "No, it's not (not cold)" but that's because I don't colloquailize the sentence, but rather treat it as an equation.
Weather == not(cold)?
No: Weather != not(cold)
This create a double negative: it's not not cold, meaning it is cold. That's my hyper logical way of thinking, but many people colloquaize it just like you do. This ends up ultimately meaning that there is no "yes/no" answer that can be given, and you have to say "yes, it's cold" or "no, it's cold", to clearly get across that it is indeed cold.
Don't worry too much about it. It took me a while to wrap my head around it as well, and more so once I figured out it changes person to person. Find a way to rationalize it in your head, then stick with it.
I heard the most perfect textbook conversation using this grammar in the teacher's room in my school in Japan today.
Today, a kid came in wearing short sleeves and a t-shirt. Our school is in Hokkaido. It's currently below freezing outside and everything is covered in snow.
Vice-principal (looking at the kid and thinking, "It's definitely cold. You're cold, right?"): 寒くない？ (samuku nai?)
Kid (definitely not cold because he's 道産子, born and bred in Hokkaido): はい、暑いです。(hai, atsui desu)