difference in form without difference in meaning

Angus Grieve-Smith grvsmth at panix.com
Sun Aug 7 22:38:07 UTC 2011

On 8/6/2011 2:45 AM, john at research.haifa.ac.il wrote:
> This said, if we take a broad understanding of 'meaning', my experience so far
> has been that I have never met an alternation for which I haven't been able to
> find SOME meaning-related difference.

     I agree.  Relative order and stress have an effect on a speaker's 
understanding of the phrase, even if they do not fit into formal 
distinctions in the language.

     However, I have the distinct impression (and I'm not sure how to 
test it) that there is perception on the part of the language users that 
the two forms are interchangeable.  I really get that feeling from the 
French data, that playwrights before a certain date are purposely 
choosing /ne/ alone instead of /ne ... pas/ for semantic or pragmatic 
reasons, and playwrights after that date are just choosing them based on 
tradition, social factors or euphony.

     Another piece of data relates to Tom Givon's observation about Huck 
Finn: in the 16th Century when people talk about negation they have 
specific ideas about when to use each negator, but after that they rely 
on the dictates of grammarians and their authority.  They defer to 
Malherbe and Vaugelas, but they ignore the reasons these guys gave for 
their pronouncements.  They really don't seem to have any intuitions 
anymore, just rules.

				-Angus B. Grieve-Smith
				Saint John's University
				grvsmth at panix.com

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