Tuesday, December 28, 2010

not any or not one??

The NYTs recent The Number of None grammar blog post brings up an interesting question: is none semantically closer to not any or not one? And what should its morphosyntactic agreement be, singular or plural?

The Times takes the not any, plural position, but I am inclined to disagree based on my intuition about substitution. Below are the two sentences the Times uses to illustrate:
  • None of the interim employers or temporary agencies have contributed to a 401(k)
  • None of the works have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
Now, with the substitutions and my personal acceptability rating (where * means mildly unacceptable/not sure and ** means completely unacceptable).
  • Not one of the interim employers or temporary agencies has contributed to a 401(k)
  • Not one of the works has gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • **Not any of the interim employers or temporary agencies have contributed to a 401(k)
  • **Not any of the works have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • Not one of the interim employers or temporary agencies have contributed to a 401(k)
  • Not one of the works have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • **Not any of the interim employers or temporary agencies has contributed to a 401(k)
  • **Not any of the works has gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
The above ratings suggest that I make no distinction in acceptability between none has and none have. But wait, there's more. Let's remove the lengthy PP and see how this pans out:
  • *Not one of them has contributed to a 401(k)
  • *Not one of them has gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • **Not any of them have contributed to a 401(k)
  • **Not any of them have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • Not one of them have contributed to a 401(k)
  • Not one of them have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • **Not any of them has contributed to a 401(k)
  • **Not any of them has gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
I seem to slightly prefer the singular reading when the word none is close to the verb but with a plural noun heading the PP. But this is not true if we delete the PP altogether:
  • Not one has contributed to a 401(k)
  • Not one has gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
  • *Not one have contributed to a 401(k)
  • *Not one have gained a foothold in the seasonal repertory.
It would appear I have an incoherent grammar (surely this is true as I believe all grammars are, in some way, incoherent. As Sapir said, all grammars leak). But, there's at least one other factor muddying the linguistic waters. The fact that one also acts a pronoun as in one does one's duty. When acting as a pronoun, it takes 2nd pers, SG agreement, as in one has to do one's duty (think he has to do his duty), not *one have to do one's duty. It may be that this pronoun agreement is interfering with my reading when one occurs right next to the verb. Also, I did this pretty fast, so I wouldn't be surprised if I change my mind by COB...

Of course, how could I resist:


I believe I got the full paradigm:
  • not one of them has
  • not one of them have
  • not any of them has
  • not any of them have
  • none of them has
  • none of them have
  • none has
  • none have
It appears as though none have had a hell of a start to the 18th 19th Century, but got killed off along with the Buffalo.

2 comments:

rhb said...

"It appears as though none have had a hell of a start to the 18th Century"

19th, surely :-)

Chris said...

d'oh!

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