Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 14:54:35 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Positive Anymore
Natalie Maynor writes,
I tried to explain positive anymore in my Descriptive English Grammar
class this morning, and some of the students were totally mystified.
At least one student never could figure out what the example sentences
were trying to say. The positive anymore rendered them meaningless to
This is, I think, an interesting phenomenon, especially since others have
reported similar reactions in their own classes, and the particularly
vitriolic ire of prescriptivists confronted with this well-attested variant
form reinforces my sense that there's more going on than just unfamiliarity
with the occurrence of a given form with a given meaning. Obviously the
concept of positive anymore is not intrinsically difficult; it's pretty close
(while not identical) to that of 'nowadays' or even 'now', which don't seem
all that hard for speakers to master. Maybe it's the overlap between the
negative polarity sense and the unrestricted one, but I suspect that's not the
whole story. Nor is the occurrence of 'any' without any negation or other
operator to license it, since 'anyhow', 'anyway', and even "free-choice" 'any'
(Anyone can whistle; Anyone knows that) are all found in standard (majority
dialect) English. Does Labov or anyone else working with the sociolinguistics
of language attitude have an explanation for the bewildered or disgusted re-
actions speakers evince when confronted with "Anymore, I do"?