So don't I, so aren't I, etc.

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jul 16 16:16:26 UTC 2001

Suzanne et al.,

Besides the comment from me Dan Johnson reproduces (far) below, I've
kept some earlier mentions on ads-l (the American Dialect Society
list), given just below.  One is also from me, the other from yet
another Yale source, Bryan Gick (now of UBC), who attests the
construction well outside of New England (although still in the
Northeast).  Another ads-l member, the lexicographer Frank Abate,
commented in the 1998 thread "And as a transplant to New England from
the Midwest (I moved to N.E. in 1978), I can attest to having heard
this use of the negative for jocular effect, and being struck by it.
I had not encountered it in all my years (27 or so) in the Midwest."

I should note that one doesn't hear "So AUXn't [+pro]" every day even
in New England, and a lot of locals here are as puzzled when they
hear about it (e.g. in my classes) as non-New Englanders would be.  I
just checked with my 19-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, both
Connecticut born and bred, and neither could believe that such a
construction existed.  I tend to agree with Dan's comment below that
"So don't I" and "So do I"--to the extent that the former still
exists--differ in their pragmatics, while agreeing in their
(truth-conditional) semantics.

Date:   Thu, 12 Mar 1998 15:49:40 -0500
Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Larry Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Subject:        Re: standardization of non-standard forms

At 4:49 PM -0500 3/11/98, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
Larry, I'd like to highlight just two phrases you cited (except that
I'm new to Eudora and don't yet know how to repeat just two lines and
not the whole business below): Does "So don't I" really mean "So do
I"? My impression was that it meant "Neither do I" (with the negation
retained but transferred from Aux to conj., to match a presumably
negative preceding clause)--and ditto with "So can't they." I once
asked Labov where these phrases are used, and he said New England, so
now I'll ask you, as an NE rep, to clarify. (And of course I agree
they're neither malapropisms nor mistakes.)

I haven't gone through all my messages, so I don't know if someone
else responded to Beverly on this, but the answer is yes, "So don't
I" = 'So do I'. It's essentially New England, as Labov said, and not
all of New England. Someone from DARE probably knows the
distribution, but it's at least extant here in Connecticut and in
Massachusetts. I've seen it in novels (labelled as local to some part
of New England) and in one memorable headline from the early 1970's
in the Boston Globe:


As seen here, it always follows a positive and the negation is
pleonastic. Whether there's a different construction found after
negatives I don't know.

Date:   Wed, 1 Apr 1998 11:27:01 -0500
  Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Bryan Gick <bgick at SAPIR.LING.YALE.EDU>
Subject:        so don't I

I know I'm a couple weeks late on this one, but just in case anyone's
still interested in the "so don't I" distribution...

My mother grew up in the small town (pop. 1500-ish) of Youngsville in
NW Pennsylvania. I spent my early years (till 1st grade) in the
smaller town of Irvine (pop. maybe a couple hundred) about 3 miles
away, but did kindergarten in Y-ville. From 2nd-9th grade we lived in
the county seat (Warren, pop. 11K or so), maybe 8 miles away from

I was baffled when, having lived in the area all my short life, we
moved back to Youngsville for my 10th grade year, and I discovered
that the standard response indicating agreement was "so don't I" (as
in A: "I like ice cream." B: "Mmm. So don't I!" Also, "so didn't I,"
"so doesn't she," etc., but not "I don't too," etc.). While it had
more currency among the harder-core locals, it seemed to be pretty
much standard fare for everyone, barring those who'd moved in from

I'd never before nor have ever since heard the construction used
anywhere outside of the very immediate bounds of Youngsville.
Renegade New Englanders? Well, NW PA _is_ at a wild juncture of
dialect areas, and with lake Erie where it is, a bottleneck for New
Englanders travelling overland to the West. Still strange, tho. Any


Bryan Gick - bgick at
Yale Department of Linguistics
and Haskins Laboratories

At 5:13 PM -0400 7/16/01, Daniel Ezra Johnson wrote:
>This was discussed briefly on the American Dialect Society's list a few
>months ago. Here's the relevant section, from 1/30/01; the discussion was
>primarily about "could(n't) care less".
>I wrote:
>>It could have started sarcastically, and transferred over to speakers who
>>lack the specific (Yiddish?) intonation pattern alluded to earlier: an
>>interesting kind of shift where pragmatics (sarcasm) is replaced by a
>>sort of marked, backward semantics. What I'm trying to say is that it
>>ends up like one of those expressions where you just have to know it
>>means the opposite of what it sounds like, such as the alleged
>>Bostonianism "So don't I."
>>"Same difference" is similar, and there must be others.
>Larry Horn replied:
>>I think it is a lot like "So don't/can't I" (which, for those not
>>familiar with the New Englandism, means "So do I").  This too is most
>>plausibly reconstructed as a sarcasm that became conventionalized,
>>although here we end up with an "extra" negative instead of a missing
>If the item was discussed earlier on the ADS list (which is quite likely),
>I can't find it, because I think the words are too common to be included
>by the search engine at that site.
>In retrospect, I'm not sure how "so don't I" would have developed as a
>conventionalized sarcasm. I might contend -- pace your examples -- that it
>is not simply used as a substitute for "so do I". I think there is a
>difference like:
>A. I like chocolate cake.
>B. So do I!
>C. I have Wade Boggs' rookie card.
>D. So don't I!
>as if "so don't I" includes a refutation of the pragmatics ("I have
>something you don't have; I am better than you") while agreeing with the
>semantics of the previous statement.
>I did grow up outside of Boston, but I don't consider myself a "native
>speaker" of this construction; in fact, I used to mock it extensively, so
>my judgement may be off.
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