Overnegation and Nary (Your Language Log Post)

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Wed May 30 06:24:51 UTC 2007

Has anyone checked the SED for "ar(y)" in this sense?  Seems to me
it's not only American, but also Southwestern British English.   As
my parentheses show, it might be more common without the "y" as
"nary" = [nar] certainly is.  It would fit with a Southern
distribution in the US too, as the Southwest is a big input there
(and in parts of New England).

Paul Johnston
On May 29, 2007, at 1:03 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Fwd: Overnegation and Nary (Your Language Log Post)
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> from another LLog reader:
> Begin forwarded message:
>> I thought you might be interested to know, if you didn't already,
>> that Faulkner (through some of his characters) uses "ary" to mean
>> "nary" but without the negation.  So Faulkner would have said
>> "before ary a punch was thrown" and been correct.  I don't have my
>> OED handy but I suspect "ary" may have been a good formal word long
>> ago.
> anyone have any actual faulkner cites?
> in any case, this really should be in the OED.  it looks like the
> problem is that it's american, spoken, and dialectal -- three things
> that work against it for inclusion in the OED.
> it's really a very pretty historical change, with "nary" apparently
> analyzed as "n-ary", so that it looks like "ary" 'a single' is
> licensed by the negative -- that is, that it's a negative polarity
> item.  and so far the examples of "ary" are in negative contexts
> ("without" and negative "before").
> it would certainly be nice to have further examples in other types of
> negative contexts.  and i wonder about other NPI-licensing contexts,
> in particular yes-no questions and conditionals -- things like:
> main clause negation:  I didn't see ary a dog.  'I didn't see a
> single dog'
> ynq: Did you see ary a dog? 'Did you see a single dog?'
> conditional: If you saw ary a dog,... 'If you saw a single dog,...'
> arnold
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