(neither) nor

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 8 16:11:14 UTC 2007

At 8:24 AM -0700 5/8/07, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On May 8, 2007, at 7:25 AM, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
>>Has anyone ever heard this kind of phrase sans "neither":
>>"Kent Smith nor anyone from that office was present . . . ."
>>The meaning was clearly "neither KS nor anyone else ...."
>lovely.  surely there are more cites to be found.  the negative
>disjunction is signaled perfectly well by "nor" (that is, the
>"neither" is, technically, redundant), and for positive disjunction,
>both "either... or" and simple "or" (without "either") are possible,
>so simple "nor" would be an entirely natural development.

Natural, but a bit tricky, since the negation would have to spread
its scope backwards over the first disjunct (or conjunct, depending
on your analysis).  German can do this at least marginally ("in
Wasser noch in Luft" = 'neither in (the) water nor in (the) air'),
and Jespersen cites a similar use of "ne" in OE "looking before and
after", as he puts it, so that "suD ne norD" in Beowulf = 'neither
south nor north".


>(query: are there good treatments of the alternation between
>"either... or" and simple "or"?)
>as far as i can tell, MWDEU doesn't mention simple "nor".  it does
>have treatments of "neither... or" and of "nor" for "or" in negative
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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