Syntactic change/

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Apr 22 03:48:11 UTC 2006

>At 05:26 PM 4/21/2006, you wrote:
>>>I've heard the any-doesn't construction, but only from a
>>>non-native-English-speaking (too many hyphens?) colleague.  I don't have
>>>his example handy, but when I cite it to my class, the NSs all look
>>>puzzled, as I do.  It's the ambiguity of meaning that's the problem:  Any
>>>old 32-bit CPU doesn't fit your needs, only some certain ones do?  No
>>>32-bit CPU fits your needs, none at all?  Might the instruction have been
>>>written by a NNS, via outsourcing?
>>Do you find it impossible to get them even in direct denials with a
>>possibility modal, as in
>>"No, anybody CAN'T become president"
>>"Contrary to what is often claimed, any team CAN'T win the championship"
>>"You're wrong--anything ISn't possible"
>>"No, any doctor WON'T tell you any such thing"
>>and so on, as rebuttals?
>>These seem unexceptionable to me, and clearly have the free choice
>>interpretation (it is not the case that [for any x, x can VP/x is
>>possible]).  I agree that the "no x" interpretation is harder to get,
>>but it's not impossible, especially if there's a relative clause on
>>the "Any" subject:  "Anybody I know wouldn't go out with Chris".
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The "any" plus relative clause is marginally acceptable to me, but the
>others sound odd, even in rebuttal (the third example might be less odd
>than the others).  I have to insert something like "just" and use positive:
>No, not just anybody can become president."

With "just" to signal the free choice reading, the fronting of "not"
isn't required for a lot of speakers.  Here's one caught in the wild
(Yale Daily News):

"When our spirits most need a lift, just any old frock won't do."

Obviously, "not just any old frock won't do" is also possible, but
the other order is as well.  Doing a little armchair field work on
google, I find a Willie Nelson song "Any Old Arms Won't Do", a George
Strait song "Any Old Love Won't Do", and an article in the Orange
County Register "When Just Any Jeans Won't Do".  ("any old", like
"just any", disambiguates in the direction of free choice "any", as
in "She doesn't date any linguist" vs. "She doesn't date any old
linguist", although here it introduces another ambiguity.)

Here are a couple for "anything can't happen":

In reality "anything" CAN'T happen, because the heroes always come
through safe and sound with very few scars.
When FinCOM agents are training with SEAL teams anything can't
happen, they have rules.

Here's a couple with the "no" meaning, via googling "any team can't".
These sound worse to me than the ones above that directly deny
"anything can ..." :

Any team can't be "on" every game
It is correct that any team can't win everytime


The American Dialect Society -

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