6

Source: Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company [1892], judgement of Lindley LJ

But there is another view. Does not the person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer ♦ put himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants? Is it nothing to use this ball three times daily for two weeks according to the directions at the request of the advertiser? Is that to go for nothing?

I tried ELU. Am I right that this is a negative interrogative, and that Lindley LJ is just asking rhetorically: 'Does not the person .... put himself to some inconvenience ...'?

Why or why not should not be situated where I have inserted ♦ (ie the lozenge)? What differs?

PS: This Reddit post explicates this older syntax.

11

The key here is Heavy Noun Phrase Shift. Here's how it works:

  1. First, let's start with the canonical (declarative, affirmative) version:

    [The person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer]subject puts himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants.

  2. Then we'll add the dummy auxiliary do. We need this auxiliary for two reasons: to negate the predicate, and to mark the clause as interrogative through inversion:

    [The person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer]subject doesauxiliary put himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants.

  3. At this point, we can negate the predicate:

    [The person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer]subject doesauxiliary notnegator put himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants.

  4. And now we can invert the subject and auxiliary, turning our declarative clause into an interrogative clause:

    Doesauxiliary [the person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer]subject notnegator put himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants?

  5. Last, because our subject is so long and syntactical complex, and because this is particularly formal English, we can optionally make use of the rare Heavy Noun Phrase Shift, pushing our subject to the right out of its basic position, past the negator:

    Doesauxiliary notnegator [the person who acts upon this advertisement and accepts the offer]subject put himself to some inconvenience at the request of the defendants?

When these conditions aren't met, we can't shift the subject noun phrase to the right:

Doesauxiliary shesubject notnegator like ice cream?

*Doesauxiliary notnegator shesubject like ice cream? (ungrammatical)

The subject she isn't long or syntactically complex enough to count as as a "heavy" noun phrase, so it can't be shifted past the negator.

In contrast, the contracted form doesn't doesn't involve Heavy NP Shift; -n't is a suffix, and so doesn't is a single word which inverts with a subject without any of these restrictions:

Shesubject doesn'tnegated-auxiliary like ice cream.

Doesn'tnegated-auxiliary shesubject like ice cream?

For more discussion, see my previous answer.

  • +1. Thanks. Would you please clarify how doesn't differs? Based on your answer above, I'm guessing that the only difference relates to Now the auxiliary is the single word *doesn't*, so if we apply subject-auxiliary inversion in your other linked answer. In other words, the contracted Doesn't ...? only involves subject-auxiliary inversion and matches with ... does not. Whereas Does not... above involves Heavy Noun Phrase Shift? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Dec 17 '14 at 10:29
  • @LawArea51Proposal-Commit I updated my answer. – snailboat Dec 17 '14 at 11:10
  • @snailboat Thank you effusively! I especially cherish your update because my comment and guess above look wrong! – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Dec 17 '14 at 11:12
  • I wonder whether it's preferable to use doesn't or does not before Heavy Noun Phrases, or they would be equal in sense. – CowperKettle Dec 17 '14 at 12:08
  • 1
    @CopperKettle Does not is only possible in particularly formal style, usually in written English but occasionally in prepared speeches and the like. – snailboat Dec 17 '14 at 12:11
-3

It reminds me of the bit in Merchant Of Venice:

If you prick us, do we not bleed?

It seems to be hinting that the expected answer to the rhetorical question is the other way round - yes, we do. Or in the court ruling - yes, the plaintiff did.

  • The quote you give has the "not" in pretty much the analogous position that the OP here is expecting, which is not where that word actually appeared in their passage, so this answer doesn't appear to explain anything about the word order, which is the only point of this question. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 30 '18 at 23:19

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