Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Hoping for an Earthquake

Posted by Neal on April 8, 2010

Glen sent me a link to a page of photos of an amazingly perilous path up a mountain in China, a path ending at a teahouse. He was struck by the caption on one of the pictures:

Let’s hope no one gets a sudden cramp or that the area gets hit by an earthquake !!

Glen’s comment: “I guess the negation in ‘no one’ is supposed to scope over the earthquake clause?” I’d say yes — otherwise, the writer is suggesting that an earthquake is one of two events that we should hope for. This sentence reminds me most of the one from this post, where the negation inside the quantified subject scopes over two clauses:

No one measures I.Q. points when you apply for a job and you are then paired with fellow employees who are of your mental ability.

2 Responses to “Hoping for an Earthquake”

  1. Herb Stahlke said

    A bit off topic, but about 45 years ago I worked for a year and a half on a Nigerian language, Ekpari, with clause-final negation. Most of my notes were lost at the beginning of the Nigerian (Biafran) Civil War, and I don’t know the language well enough anymore to talk about how a scope phenomenon like this would work. Very little work has been done on the language since. Anyone else out there familiar with languages with clause-final negation and how scope works in them? I do recall that subordinate clauses had a final marker /mE/, with a low tone, the negative marker was /ja/, with a mid tone, and the sequence /ja mE ja/ was possible if a negated subordinate clause was nested in a negated matrix clause.

  2. Glen said

    I must say that when I read that sentence, my first reaction was “ungrammatical junk sentence,” even though I knew what was meant. And then I thought, “Hey, maybe this is one of those ungrammatical junk sentences that Neal finds so interesting.” 🙂

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