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I have some question about continuation fragments, or ellipsis fragments:

source
In the end the referendum will turn not on calculations of taxes and oil revenue, but on identity and power.

Because "turn on" is a single unbreakable verb phrase, the example appears to break it up by using "turn not on X, but on Y" pattern. Would my following rewrite be better?

In the end the referendum will turn on not calculations of taxes and oil revenue, but identity and power.

,where I used the "turn on NOT X, but Y" (different from "turn NOT on X, but ON Y") pattern.

  • It is not a single verb phrase. It is the combination of a verb and the head of a following preposition phrase which, taken together, have slightly noncompositional meaning. – snailcar Sep 27 '14 at 23:56
  • But your question is still interesting, despite the mistaken assumption. – snailcar Sep 27 '14 at 23:57
  • @snailboat So, the example is wrong? – meatie Sep 28 '14 at 3:25
  • @meatie No, the example you gave of “turn not on X but on Y” is not wrong at all, merely somewhat trickier to parse. Turn not on X but on Y is the same as Turn on not X but Y. Consider “That will depend not on taxes but on identity” and notice how the normally “unbreakable“ depend on gets interrupted by the first half of a not . . . but construct. That is all that is happening here. So not . . . but is a shorter version of not only . . . but also, and the negation can intercede in things you would not normally think could be subject to injections like this. – tchrist Sep 28 '14 at 4:30
  • A version that would be easier to read (for native speakers as well) would be, "the referendum will not turn on calculations ... but on identity and power". – The Photon Sep 28 '14 at 5:11
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In the first quote you are essentially saying:

In the end the referendum will turn not on calculations of taxes and oil revenue, but (will turn) on identity and power.

The second "will turn" is implied, and can be skipped without changing the meaning.

  • So, the example is wrong? – meatie Sep 28 '14 at 3:25
  • If you are referring to your rewrite, I don't think you could say "not calculations" (there really isn't such a thing). I did not change the first example, just added explanatory words that can be omitted. So as written it is OK. – user3169 Sep 28 '14 at 3:56

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