Squat - revisited

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed May 29 22:35:06 UTC 2002


My zilch feelings exactly. I never realized before that you were in
your early 60's and came from the Louisville KY area. What else could
explain it?


>At 7:52 AM -0400 5/28/02, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>In my speech "squat" also means simply nothing, a rather obvious
>>extension of the "worthless" sense of "shit."
>>I went fishing and got shit/squat = nothing
>>I went fishing and got shit/squat = nothing worth catching/keeping
>>In fact, for me, the "nothing" reading is stronger for "squat."
>It may be worth mentioning that the same is true for most people
>with "nothing"
>I caught (or, for negative concord speakers, I didn't catch) nothing:
>= 'nothing at all', or 'nothing worth catching'.
>I don't think this is a special feature of the squatitives.  But
>repeating what I said before, what makes the squatitives interesting
>is that even speakers who don't normally get negative concord
>typically get both licensed and unlicensed "squat", "shit", etc.,
>with the same (negative) meaning:
>I didn't get squat = I got squat = I got nothing (I didn't get anything).
>The RHHDAS finesses this by having two entries for "squat" and its
>relatives, one = 'nothing', one = 'anything'.  Not that all
>squatitives are alike:  for me, "shit" and "squat" allow both forms,
>but "zilch" only allows the non-licensed version:
>He knows zilch [ = 'nothing'] about negative polarity.
>*He doesn't know zilch [= 'anything'] about negative polarity.
>Different speakers will differ on this.

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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