Dear Grammar Exchangers,

I haven't checked if this topic was ever posted before, so I hope that this post isn't redundant. I would be interested to get some feedback on the following. We all know that while many "” a few? "” politicians are the epitome of virtue, at least SOME politicians lie, cheat, and steal "” that is, they are dishonest, and I believe that while a lot of grammar IS interesting, SOME topics in grammar are as exciting as watching paint dry (assuming that you're not into watching paint dry) "” that is, they are booooooring! Relative to these statements about politicians and grammar, what would you make of the following(?):

(1A) All politicians are not honest.
(1B) Not all politicians are honest.

(2A) All grammar is not interesting.
(2A) Not all grammar is interesting.

Even if this topic WAS posted before, I would like to hear which sentences are "” or which sentences you believe are "” correct, and why you hold whatever opinion you hold. (Did you look it up in a grammar or style book? Did your teacher tell you? Is just "common sense"?) I'm also very curious about the way that education affects your perception, so I would love to hear if any native or nonnative speaker studied this in school. Do you remember how it was presented to you and/or what your teacher said?

I DO have my opinions, but I'm going to be a little coy and hold back for now. And while I would like to know if there is some definitive answer, please don't hesitate to give your opinion "” regardless of your level.

Sincerely,
Kafkaesque

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Original Post
(1A) = 0 (zero) politicians are honest
No politicians are honest.

(1B) = Some politicians are not honest.
Some politicians are dishonest.


(2A) = All grammar is uninteresting.
No grammar is interesting.

(2B) = Some grammar is interesting.
Some grammar is uninteresting.


Right?

Whether right or wrong, I have absolutely no idea where I learned to interpret these sentences, or in fact, any sentences.

Rachel
Dear JerryS and Rachel,

Thank you for participating. I hope to get more input from other folks. While I'm still going to be coy about my answer, I will say that this is NOT a test. This is, in fact, related to a pet peeve of mine. I hear people say things with these structures, and you can tell by context what they mean, but their interpretations are different than mine. The only reason that I'm not sharing my opinion now is I hope to get unbiased answers. And while I DO have a definite opinion on the matter, I wonder if it is just that: an opinion. I wonder if there's any more validity to my opinion than anyone else's. I don't believe that most decisions about grammar are absolutely right or wrong "” minus some points about "basic grammar" (a loaded term, I know). However, I'm curious as to why and/or how people decide that something is grammatically correct or incorrect. And in this case, when I do reveal my opinion and give my reasoning, you'll see that my reasoning is fairly crude. Is everyone's?

Now I'll just throw some chum in the water in hopes of attracting some conversation.

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Placement of "not" in written versions of a sentence can cause ambiguity that speech might avoid with the help of intonation. Compare "All players are not here" and "Not all players are here." The first version could mean that some or all of the players are absent; the second version clearly means that some are present and some are not.
"” The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.
http://www.bartleby.com/68/19/4119.html

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It seems more and more common people use "All ... not ..." to mean "None ...". For example, they use "[A]ll [students] did not pass" to mean "[N]o [students] passed" rather than "[N]ot all [students] passed" or "[S]ome tests passed."

Do others have the same feeling?
"” Don

I was going to start a thread about this very topic, the "all ... not" construction, to find out just what the audience thinks of it.

I studied History of the English language and Linguistics in grad school, which makes me qualified to serve fries and to respond in forums such as this. One of the more controversial discussions we had in our Modern English Grammar class had to do with the test phrase, "All the cars don't have tags on them."

Presumably, looking across a field of dead cars, such as a used car lot or even a junkyard, one could make this statement straight-faced.

Does it mean:
(a) None of the cars have tags on them?
OR
(b) Some of the cars have tags on them?

The class was divided. But it did seem that there are two kinds of people in the world.

I'm interested in what others think. I don't think one can go by a "feeling" as to whether the language is changing. Gray exists everywhere in this black/white world. But one can certainly conduct unofficial polls for a lifetime.
"” Vinnie

http://www.waywordradio.org/discussion/?forum=4&topic=71&page=1&post=289

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All negations don't sound right to me.

I'm accustomed to hearing people make grammatical mistakes, but occassionally I'll start hearing new and painful trends that are so pervasive that I wonder if someone changed the rules while I was asleep. Case in point: how to negate constructions containing the words "all" or "some".

A few months ago, I was looking at some magazines at the grocery store and saw an ad asserting that "all insurance policies are not the same". I've been hearing that kind of construction from high school kids for some time, but always attributed it to poor language skills. A few minutes later, I went to use the store's bathroom and saw the following sign on the door: "All unpaid merchandise not allowed in restrooms".

Now those of you who grew up in the America that I grew up in know that prior to the George H.W. Bush administration, such locutions would have read "Not all insurance policies are the same" and "No unpaid merchandise allowed in restrooms". What has happened here? I now hear this "all...not" construction constantly and I'm not sure what to make of it. When I hear a teacher lament, "All of my 8th-graders didn't finish their chapter test on time.", what does she mean to communicate by that? Does she mean to say that NOT ONE of them finished (supported by literal deconstruction)...or that some did and some didn't (supported by a higher likelihood of being the case)?

Posted by Bismarck | Jun-21-06 3:29AM
http://www.painintheenglish.com/post.php?id=814

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"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."
"”Justice Scalia

....

AlaskaJack said...

The proposition "All S are not P" could mean "No S is P" or it could mean "Some S are not P". That is why this sentence form should be avoided "” especially in law. That J. Scalia used it shows that even the great sometimes nod.

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/10/it-so-happens-that...rything-that-is.html

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JerryS and Rachel, once again, I thank you again for participating. And once again, I want to make it clear that this is NOT a test. I have a DEFINITE opinion, but, like Vinnie above, I'm interested in what others think, so I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE SOME MORE OPINIONS.

Sincerely,
Kafkaesque
Placement of "not" in written versions of a sentence can cause ambiguity that speech might avoid with the help of intonation. Compare "All players are not here" and "Not all players are here." The first version could mean that some or all of the players are absent; the second version clearly means that some are present and some are not.
"” "The Columbia Guide to Standard American English" 1993.
http://www.bartleby.com/68/19/4119.html

"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."
"”Justice Scalia
http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/10/it-so-happens-that...rything-that-is.html

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JerryS Wrote:

>"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."

Equivalents:
"It so happens that SOME stupid things are NOT UNconstitutional." Correct, IMO.
"It so happens that NOT ALL stupid things are UNconstitutional." Correct, IMO.

Dear JerryS,

Earlier, you essentially wrote:

(1A) All politicians are not honest.
is the same as saying
(1A) All politicians are dishonest.

And,

(1B) Not all politicians are honest.
is the same as saying
(1B) Some ... politicians are dishonest

I agree with this 100%. Why? It sounds right to me. However, I teach nonnative speakers English, so I can't just say, "X is right/wrong because it sounds right/wrong to me," in response to every question. That doesn't help them. But, to be honest, I do sometimes say, "Well, I can't explain why this particular X is right/wrong. I can only say that it sounds right/wrong to me. However, I have to keep my X's to a minimum, so I need to try find reasons for my pronouncements.

When I think about other structures with "not," it seems to
me that "not" always modifies (negates) what comes after it:
(A1) Bob is not happy.
(A2) Mary cannot speak Chinese.
(A3) I did not eat dinner.
(A4) She hasn't worked here for very long.

Like "not," I think that "all" modifies what comes after it;
All X means 100% of X.
When I think about "not" in connection with "all,"
sentences like this come to mind:

(B1i) All of the students are sleeping.
= Every student is sleeping.
That is, 100% of the students are sleeping.
(B1ii) All of the students are not sleeping.
= No student is sleeping.
That is, 100% of the students are not sleeping.
(B1iii) The students are not all sleeping.
= Some of the students are sleeping, and some are awake.
That is, not 100% of the students are sleeping.

(B2i) All of the students can speak Chinese.
= Every student can speak Chinese.
That is, 100% of the students can speak Chinese.
(B2ii) All of the students cannot all speak Chinese.
= No student can speak Chinese.
That is, 100% of the students cannot speak Chinese.
(B2iii) Not all of the students can speak Chinese.
= Some of the students can speak Chinese, and some can't Chinese.
That is, not 100% of the students can speak Chinese.

I agree that your two sentences are identical. I think that
"It so happens that SOME stupid things are NOT Unconstitutional,"
is the same as,
"It so happens that NOT ALL stupid things are UNconstitutional."
However, I do not think that either one is the same as,
"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."

I think that Justice Scalia's comment could be reduced to,
"Everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."
And I believe that that sentence is the same as,
"Everything that is stupid is constitutional."
If he had written,
"Not all intelligent things are constitutional,"
I would say that this is the same as,
"Some intelligent things are constitutional,
and some intelligent things are unconstitutional."
If he had written,
"All intelligent things are not constitutional,"
I would say that this is the same as,
"No intelligent things are constitutional."

"The Columbia Guide to Standard American English" (see above) said that, "'Not all players are here,'" clearly means that some are present and some are not." However, it said that, "'All players are not here,' ... could mean that some or all of the players are absent ...." It also said that, "Placement of ˜not' in written versions of a sentence can cause ambiguity that speech might avoid with the help of intonation." Well, it's kind of hard for me to see how intonation could change the meaning of that sentence, so I'll choose an example from the animated show "King of the Hill."

After the first time the son attended a football game, at which the fans went a little crazy, the father said, "All games are not like that." Using CAPITAL LETTERS to indicate stress, I think that, "ALL games are not like that, might mean that some games are like that, and some games are not. While, "All games are not like THAT," might mean that no games are like that. But there are two problems, I am unsure about either of these interpretations, and I don't think that the father stressed either.

I am confused by the whole subject. I do not think that the "All Xs are not Y" construction is incorrect, but I think that it means "No Xs are Y." Nevertheless, I often hear "All Xs are not Y" "” without any special stress "” when the context makes it obvious that they mean "Some Xs are not Y."

Is anyone else confused by this?

Sincerely,
Kafkaesque

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