LINGUIST List 4.983

Tue 23 Nov 1993

Sum: Next

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , next week

Message 1: next week

Date: Tue, 23 Nov 93 12:29:00 -0next week
From: <bnevinBBN.COM>
Subject: next week

In digest 4:959 (Wed 17 Nov 1993) I asked about two different usages for
"next" in the phrase "next week" and in other temporal expressions, as follows:

Next = after this one "Next" w/ complete week intervening
 November 1993
 S M Tu W Th F S S M Tu W Th F S
 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6
 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 <== Present wk 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 <== Present wk
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 <== Next wk 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 <== Coming wk
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 <== Wk after next 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 <== Next wk
28 29 30 28 29 30 <== Wk after next

Three questions:

1. What is the distribution of this difference?

2. For "complete week intervening" speakers, what happens on Sunday? Or at
 the Saturday/Sunday midnight? Or on Monday, if that is conceived as the
 first day of the week in practice?

3. Does this apply to "next month" or "next year"? (I think not.)

0. Preliminary.

The conversation took place on Monday, November 8. Thanksgiving (U.S.)
is Thursday, November 25. A fellow commuter said "we'll have a long
weekend next week," referring to the Thanksgiving weekend. But (as I
would say it) that was not "next week" but rather "the week after next."

Three of my respondants asked if I were sure she realized the date. In
my query, I did not report the continuation of the conversation. When
she said "next week," I asked my usual sort of question in the face of
this sort of confusion: "Do you mean the week coming up or ...". She
answered "No, I mean next week, not this coming week." I thought that
covered it. But after working up this summary I was not so sure. So,
when I saw her last night, and again this morning, I asked again, and she
said she must have made a mistake. Perhaps an additional confusion was
that she was thinking "next weekend" as opposed to "this coming weekend,"
even though what she actually said was "a long weekend next week."

All is not lost. Responses showed considerable interest in the question,
and brought into focus kindred expressions like "next weekend" and "next
Tuesday," where there do appear to be dialectal differences. Some
respondents indicated that they had run into the problem with "next
week", so evidence even for that may still turn up.

1. What is the distribution of this difference?

Light is shed on the dialect question really only by the following from
Laurie Bauer:

>There is an English versus Scottish divide on the use of 'Next Tuesday' as
>spoken on, say Thursday. In Scotland, 'Tuesday first' is the very next one
>to arrive, and 'Next Tuesday' is the Tuesday of the following week. In
>England, 'Next Tuesday' is the next one we come to. In New Zealand both
>co-exist, to the confusion of restauranteurs taking bookings and such
>people. You have to give a date. Since I was brought up in England with
>one parent of Scottish descent and have lived in Scotalnd and New Zealand I
>no longer know what I say or what it means, but I think on Thurs 'next
>Tues' for me would be five days later. English system.

Respondants were as follows:

northern California
Kansas: "the whole state of Kansas"
Canada (Toronto?): "Canadians" (problems arise w/ US spkrs)
Canada (Calgary?)
Michigan, primarily (cites wife too)
Indiana/northeast US: "I grew up in Southern Indiana and have lived in
 the northeast since I was 18 (1989). I've never heard [the `complete
 week intervening' sense]."
Midwest US: central Ohio, central Ill, and Chicago area
NY/New England: middle-age female, born NY, school in NE, adult life in Miami
Great Britain (Surrey?)
Great Britain (Middlesex,
 "[A] small county which has now been swallowed up by London.
 I remember this as a linguistic confusion of childhood. I have now lived
 in the north of England for a dozen years; I don't know whether there is
 more or less confusion on the subject up here, but I do know that
 northern and southern British English have variations of a similar sort
 (e.g. in the south 'dinner' is eaten in the evening; in the north
 'dinner' means lunch)"
Cape Town, South Africa, 3 yrs USA (UI)
Unspecified US (Schaufele)
 'the week beginning on the closest future Sunday'
Unspecified US (Detrich, Nathan, Shetzer, Browne, Lee, Coleman)

A number of respondants were incredulous that the "whole week
intervening" usage could be possible.

Some respondants did not indicate which usage they follow.

2. What happens on Sunday? Or at the Saturday/Sunday midnight? Or on
 Monday, if that is conceived as the first day of the week in practice?

[Kansas] On saturday and sunday, 'next week' can mean either
the week that starts 1/2 days hence, or the following week (the one
beginnign 8/9 days hence). In this case, it is not at all unheard of to
ask which weeks the speaker means--ie do you mean the one starting this
coming monday, or the week that starts a week after that.

[So. Africa] But on Saturday, for e[xample], "next week" already means
the week after next. It somehow "needs" to be about a week away. The
immediately following week is already "this week" as in "Are you going to
town this week?" Sometimes it's "this coming week". On Friday, "next
week" could still be the following calendar week, I think.

[Great Britain (Middlesex)] 'Next week' to me always means the week
immeadiately after the current one - until I get to Sunday. That is, on
Saturday 'next week' begins 48 hours later. On Sunday 'next week' begins
to be confusing to denote the week immediately ahead; but 'this week' is
even more confusing - and I speak as one who has always regarded the week
as beginning on Monday.

[Unspecified US (Detrich)] I believe that I ignore the beginning or
ending of a week. On a Sunday "next Friday" is five days hence. It may
also simply be Friday. Three days hence is simply Wednesday. On Sunday
"next Sunday is definitely seven days hence."

[Midwest US: central Ohio, central Ill, and Chicago area] "Next week"
usually starts with Sunday, unless referring to school or work when it
starts on Monday.

[A number of respondants indicated that they avoid the potential pitfall
by substituting other expressions. I do that, as suggested in my comment
under "other expressions," below. The following provides a good example.]

[US Unspecified (Makrakis)] The main ambiguity for me is when the week
starts. In school, we were told it started on Sunday. Most people seem
to consider it starts on Monday. [...] "Next weekend" is even worse.
Spoken on a Monday, it probably means the immediately following weekend.
("This weekend" must mean "this past weekend", but perhaps it's
disambiguated by tense.) But spoken on a Friday, it probably means the
weekend a week from Friday.

[US unspecified (Nathan)] I too have noticed the potential ambiguity of
the phrase. I normally cannot use 'next week' except M-F of the
preceding week to refer to the immediately following week. On Sat or Sun
of the weekend immediately before a week I cannot say 'next week', but
must use 'this coming week'. I can't think of any circumstances when I
would refer to a week more than seven days away as 'next week'--that
would have to be 'the week after next'.

[US unspecified (Lee)] I say "this week" when I mean any time up to the
end of this week which for me is up to the end of Sunday. Others regard
Sunday as the first day of the week.

3. Does this apply to other temporal expressions?
 [I have restated the question in the broader form that the responses assume.]

[For another example, see the quote from Laurie Bauer above under question 1. --

[So. Africa] I have the most problems with "this X" and "next X", where X
is the name of a weekday. Speaking on a Tuesday, "this Thursday" means
the coming Thursday in the same week, "this Tuesday" means the following
Tuesday, i.e. in the next calendar week (perhaps this is normal). Still
on the Tuesday, I'm often confused when Americans say "next Thursday",
meaning the following Tuesday. I tend to reserve "this Tuesday" for the
coming one, and "next Tuesday" for the one after that, although there is
some overlap (I think "this Tuesday" can be "next Tuesday" sometimes),
but Americans tend to say "next Friday" (still speaking on a Tues), which
for me can ONLY be the Friday of the NEXT calendar week, NOT the Friday
to follow in a few days, i.e. "this Friday".

[Canada] My dialect is similar to yours. If it's Tuesday, the next week
starts in five days, not 12, and so for next month and next year etc.
BTW, 'next month' has the same ambiguity on the margins: if it's October
31, then 'next month' need clarification. Partly it's a matter of
second-guessing your interlocutor's knowledge of the exact date!!

[Michigan] Another interesting variation is in "next summer". Say a
conversation takes place in January, and a friend says "We're going to
Barbados next summer." Do they means four months from now, or sixteen?
Move the conversation to December; move it to April. Opinion seems to
vary greatly. (Even more troublesome: again, it's January. Which are
well-formed, if not both: "We went to Barbados this summer." = six months
ago; "We're going to Barbados this summer." = four months from now). (Of
course, it seems to work for seasons and academic years, although I'm not
sure it works for calendar years).

[Calif?] In May I sometimes say "the coming summer", instead of "next
summer" because the latter would seem in principle to be able to cover
either summer and to be vague. In September, of course, the preference
would shift to "next summer", and "the coming summer" would sound

[Great Britain (Surrey?)] In our family we have trouble with the days of
the week - I didn't realize the problem carried over to larger time
intervals. If on Monday 1st someone says 'next Friday', for me that it
Friday 5th, and for my wife it is Friday 12th. However, 'next Tuesday'
would hardly be Tuesday 2nd, that would have to be 'tomorrow', so 'next
Tuesday' would be Tuesday 9th. 'Next Wednesday' would be a problem.

[Unspecified US (Detrich)] The problem does not seem to present itself
spacially. On the highway if the sign says "Albany Next Exit", no one
bypasses the subsequent exit.

[Midwest US: central Ohio, central Ill, and Chicago area]
 For me, the references of "next month" and "next year" can be
determined by checking a calendar and finding the current month or
year and then incrementing by one.
 However, "next Thursday" is ambiguous except on a Thursday and
especially on a Wednesday. It may mean the next Thursday we get to or
it may mean Thursday of next week. I usually avoid "next Thursday" in
favor of "Thursday" or "this coming Thursday" and "Thursday of next
week" or "a week from Thursday".
 A related problem seems to be the traffic signs near Herndon Va
which say "Lee Highway next intersection" 50 ft from a traffic light.
I can't tell from the sign and don't remember whether that means
"this light that you'll be through before you comprehend this sign"
or "the next light after the light you passed through as you
comprehended the sign", I just remember we guessed wrong.

 [NB: this does not necessarily contradict the preceding comment, the
 confusion may have been due to the sign being too close &/or traffic
 too fast for adequate processing. -- BN]

[Canada (Calgary?)] For me, particularly around this time of year (Nov-Feb?),
"this summer" can refer to either the summer of '93 or the summer
of '94. There are clearly ways of disambiguating: "I'll do it
this summer" vs. "I did it this summer". Without being
systematic about it, I expect that the same thing happens with
the other seasons, and I know that I have had conversations where
people have asked what year was involved. I think the same thing
happens with days of the week: on the weekend, "this Tuesday" is
ambiguous until some temporal indication arrives.

[Unspecified US (Shetzer)]
I believe that the analysis of the construction next week should
consider constructions such as
next month, next year...etc. This of course, deals with the time in
relation to the day you're talking about. What makes you think they
wouldn't apply to each other?
 [Answer: I don't assume that they apply or don't apply in someone
 else's speech. (I know what the relation is in my own speech.)
 That's why I tried to make the question unassuming. -- BN]

[Unspecified US (Lee)]
 I have quite often had misunderstandings with people who
 apparently don't accept my usage when I refer to particular days. For
 instance I say "this Wednesday" and "next Wed" and am often misunderstood.
 "This wed" means this one coming and "next wed" means the one that will
 come next week. I often have to clarify. Apparently other people can say
 "next wed" when they mean the one coming in two days' time. I can't.

Other questions:

[Canada (Smyth)]
- 'week' is ambiguous: does one count calendar weeks, starting with
Sunday, or work weeks, starting with Monday?
- what day is 'today' if it's 12:22 a.m.? Is it the day we woke up
to, or, more technically, the 'real' date because it's after midnight?
- it seems that the closer one
is to the time period under discussion, the less likely that 'next' will
mean 'the one immediately following'. So if it's Saturday night, does
'next week' include tomorrow, Sunday? By the same token, if it's December
31, does 'next year' mean 1994 (i.e. New Year's Day), or 1995?

[Great Britain (Middlesex)] Any takers for 'next Friday'? Said on a
Monday is it a) four days ahead or b) 11 days ahead? Said on a Thursday
is it a) the following day or b) 8 days ahead? And what about 'this
Friday'? Said on a Monday it seems unambiguous; it is four days ahead.
Said on a Saturday is it a) the previous day or b) 6 days ahead?

[Unspecified US (Detrich)] You might include in the query the correlation
of "last Friday" with regard to Sunday. Is it two or nine days previous?

Other languages:

 Though I cannot offer you some more data on English [...]
I have some interesting info on Telugu[, ...] a Dravidian language spoken
by 70 million people in South India. It is my mother tongue.
 Suppose today is Wednesday. You can say 'yester day - Monday ' as a
compound to mean the monday in that week. To refer to the monday of
last week you will say last-monday (literally 'below - monday').
To refer to the saturday of this week, you will say 'tomorrow -
Saturday' again as a compound. For the saturday in the next week,
it will be 'coming saturday' (literally 'coming Saturday'). The point is
we use the equivalents of 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' to refer to days
in the current week.

 [T]here is a similar problem in Danish, not with weeks, months or years,
but with weekdays.
 In my speech, 'p} n{ste torsdag' ("on next thursday") refers to the
thursday after the present or coming one, i.e. if it is said on a thursday
it refers to a day one week away, while on a friday it is almost two weeks
away. 'p} torsdag' ("on thursday") refers to the coming thursday. In fact,
I think the two expressions are coreferential on thursdays, or maybe "p}
torsdag" is avoided on thursdays.
 For some speakers the two expressions appear to refer to the same thursday,
but I have a feeling that "p} n{ste torsdag" is used only if that thursday
is some time away. Anyway, it does cause some confusion at times.

Thanks to:
 Stavros Macrakis <>
 N. Keshav <>
 David Schneider <>
 Ron Smyth <>
 Steven Schaufele <>
 Paul T Kershaw <>
 Peri Bhaskararao <>
 Ole Ravnholt <>
 Jane A. Edwards <>
 Prof Greville G Corbett <>
 Mr Tom Barney <>
 E. Dean Detrich <>
 Scott Kiesling <>
 Douglas C. Walker <>
 Heidi Shetzer <>
 Wayles Browne <>
 Penny Lee <>
 Laurie Bauer <>
 Linda Coleman <>

Disclaimer: I have no plans for these data. They are in the public
domain and anyone may do with them as they will. My piqued curiosity is
well served.

 Bruce Nevin
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