Wednesday, January 7, 2009


"Whosoever pulleth out the sword from this stone is rightful king of all England."

The -soever class of words is a funny one, and apparently not one that I've been formally taught in school. (This includes my linguistics courses, and applied grammar courses. Either that or my memory for this specific phenomena fails me.)

Anyway, I was reading a comment on Hanzi Smatter:
“The second character looked like an 'U' whatsoever.”
This bugged me because I couldn't really understand what was being said. Why? Because whatsoever is always used in a negative sentence. Or is it? It is possible, afterall, that my experience with the word is a weird artifact of being raised by ESLers. So, I turn to the BNC (which is my new best friend in these matters), to look up the "random 50 solutions" of 943 found. All of them either had the key word "not" in them (i.e., negating the verb), the word "no" (negating a noun), or the adverb "nothing."

Also, on a pedantic note, it should have been "a 'U'," at least, the way it's pronounced in English. And since the comment was written in English, I think that is sufficient enough to assume.

Meanwhile, it seems that the poster was a Chinese-speaking ESLer. And that gets me thinking about how one goes about teaching or observing patterns like that -- where certain words ("whatsoever") are used exclusively in a negative context. Even if it's explicitly taught in an EAP setting, is it effective, or just forgotten among the sea of other words. Ah, to look at the curriculum of an EAP class!

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