LINGUIST List 3.854

Sat 31 Oct 1992

Disc: Negation

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. David A. Johns, "So don't I"
  2. Bernard Lang, negation
  3. , Pleonastic negative in Hindi
  4. Joel Goldfield, "Ne expressif or ne expl'etif"

Message 1: "So don't I"

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 92 11:16:04 -0"So don't I"
From: David A. Johns <>
Subject: "So don't I"

In LINGUIST 3.806 Larry Horn <LHORNYaleVM.YCC.Yale.Edu> says:

| One of my citations was a Boston Globe headline reading
| where the (then-)Baltimore Colts and New England Patriots were two
| pro football teams preparing for a big game. (Those were the
| days...) This I took to illustrate that the "so don't
| (can't/won't/...) NP" construction, which I regarded as indeed
| sarcastic in some sense, is familiar enough in New England to allow
| the assumption of widespread comprehension.

As a native speaker of "so don't I", I feel no sarcasm or irony in the
expression, although it certainly could be used in a sarcastic
context. The headline above would not lose its meaning if it read "So
do the Pats", would it?

I grew up in Dalton, (western) Massachusetts, and did not realize that
there was anything wrong with this expression until I moved away in my
20s. For 25 years now I have used "so don't I" as an example of a
local abnormality, much as others talk about "needs washed" or "might
could". I have never run into anyone outside Berkshire County who
admits to actually using it, although people from as far away as
Albany, NY, Springfield, MA, and Bellows Falls, VT, have recognized
it. Right now I'm working with a young man from Williamstown, MA, who
had never noticed that other people don't use the expression until I
brought it up.

By the way, the construction is not limited to just "so don't I."
Other modals work, as Professor Horn points out above, and the past is
OK too, as in "So didn't they". But I feel less comfortable with full
NPs -- "So didn't Mary" sounds fine, but "So don't the people who live
next door" sounds a little awkward. But maybe I've just been isolated
from living models for too long.

David Johns
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Message 2: negation

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 92 16:02:59 +0negation
From: Bernard Lang <>
Subject: negation

Your discussion about "ne" was reproduced on the list LNFRMOP11.CNUSC.FR

I am only a native speaker, and otherwise incompetent,
though I would love to know the origine of the construction.

2 remarks:
 The use of "ne" in sentences like "Je crains qu'il ne pleuve"
is being more and more ignored (just listening to radio or TV,...
but then, they don't even use words with their proper meaning,
I mean the professionals).

 "ne" is being forgotten even in negative sentences, as remarked,
and people consider that "pas" carries the negation.
 Then what should one think of "plus", that can carry the negation in the
same way, but also means "more".
 e.g. "je bois plus" is ambiguous in writing, though not orally:
 "je bois plu" means "I no longer drink"
 "je bois plusse" means "I am drinking more"

 The interesting fact about the French is that they will start a civil
war for the spelling or rare words, but their syntax is in tatters.
Point is: one can pass laws about spelling, and check documents, but
how do you enforce speech rules.

Bernard Lang
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Message 3: Pleonastic negative in Hindi

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1992 10:40:07 Pleonastic negative in Hindi
From: <>
Subject: Pleonastic negative in Hindi

I think Hindi has something like the 'pleonastic' negatives which have been
under discussion lately, e.g.
 A: Did you give (i.e., pay) the excess baggage fee?
 B: De diyaa to, are, kitnaa nahII diyaa!
 gave gave hey how-much not gave
'I paid all right; how much I paid! (lit., 'How much didn't I pay!')'

Also in some temporal correlatives, e.g. jab tak tum nahII aaoge
tab tak rahUUgii mAI 'until you come (lit., until you don't come) I
will stay'
Mimi Klaiman
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Message 4: "Ne expressif or ne expl'etif"

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 92 18:01:54 -0"Ne expressif or ne expl'etif"
From: Joel Goldfield <>
Subject: "Ne expressif or ne expl'etif"

Dear Linguists,
	Jock McNaught forwarded on a query about the "ne expressif" or
what's often also called the "ne expl'etif." In the cases cited, it's
included to show the negative predisposition of the speaker/writer, as in:

"Je crains qu'il ne pleuve." = "I fear it may/will rain."

The "ne" indicates that, logically, the speaker does not want this to happen,
but believes that it may/will rain nonetheless. A similar phenomenon exists
in at least northern New England English (US) where many speakers say:

You'd like some jam? I'll see if I can't get it for you."
"I wonder if he won't arrive here early." = "I wonder if he'll arrive here
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