cannot: OED pronunciation

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Wed Jan 19 13:59:03 UTC 2005

From:    Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
: At 9:32 AM -0500 1/18/05, David Bowie wrote:

:: Okay, i've tried, and i just can't (no pun intended) get the
:: distinction from the orthography. To me, the two sentences "An
:: Episcopalian priest cannot/can not marry" are both quite equally
:: ambiguous, at least in written form....


: Very interesting.  So for you it's possible to write

: An Episcopalian priest cannot marry if he doesn't want to marry.
: You cannot go to the meeting, can't you?

Yes--and they're both ambiguous.


: If you can write the above sentences in the indicated way, do you
: distinguish between the "cannot" versions and the inflected versions
: with "can't", i.e.

: An Episcopalian priest can't marry if he doesn't want to marry.
: You can't go to the meeting, can't you?

: ?  Or are these possible for you as well?

<David sits up a bit straighter>

Oooooooooooooooh, cool!

The first one forces the meaning that an Episcopalian priest's unwillingness
to marry makes it impossible for him to get married--that is, "can't" can
only be what was originally claimed as solely "cannot".

The second sentence is right out, though if it's "You can't go to the
meeting, can you?" it would be *marginal* as saying it's impossible for you
to go to the meeting--AIR, also the meaning originally claimed for "cannot".

Seems to suggest that i *do* have a cannot/can not distinction, but it's
utterly detached from orthography. Interesting.

David Bowie                               
    Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
    house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
    chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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