Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 7 03:01:15 UTC 2014

On Feb 6, 2014, at 7:40 PM, Brian Hitchcock wrote:

> What about "Much Ado About Nothing?    -- Clearly, the "much" is
> adjectival; I don't think  the "nothing" is a negative licenser.

I agree, but recall that the eponymous play was written in 1598 or 1599, and the negative polarity status of "much" has had {a lot of/#much} time to kick in since then.  (For example, "at all" used to occur pretty freely in positive contexts, as the OED entry indicates.)

> I do agree that there is a difference between "I don't drink much coffee."
> and  "I don't drink  coffee much." It does matter whether "much" is used
> as an adjective or as an adverb. The problem is that when it occurs
> between a verb and a noun, the noun seems to claim it.  Oddly, one does
> not say "I don't much drink coffee" -- or does one? This construction
> would put the "much" unequivocally in an adverbial position (next to the
> verb, not next to the noun).
> -- bwh
> At 2/5/2014 07:25 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> There has indeed been a lot of ink spilled over the negative polarity
> status of "much".  Essentially, in most environments "much" needs a
> negative "licenser", as those working on such phenomena call it, much as
> do "any", "ever", "yet", "lift a finger", etc.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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