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Parameters for the configuration of some qualitative SOME's

Graham Ranger

Résumés

In this article we maintain that the marker SOME, in constructions of the general form SOME N, refers to an operation of second-order determination or bracketing, relative to a notional domain.

This may in turn be interpreted contextually as quantitative – in which case SOME brackets an amount of the notion in question – or qualitative – in which case SOME brackets a quality of the notion in question.

Such qualitative uses may be categorised further into at least three subtypes, according to the type of determination involved : whichness (ipseity), whatness (quiddity) or howmuchness (intensity).

The theoretical framework used is that of the Theory of Predicative and Enunciative Operations. The concept of second-order determination enables us to provide an innovative explanation for the different values of SOME as configurations of an abstract schematic form.

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1. Introduction : the problems of SOME

1The marker SOME is liable to receive various interpretations in context which are often broadly divided – non-exclusively – into quantitative values (1) and qualitative values (2) as illustrated below.

  • 1 This is not a quantitative study and our corpus is deliberately limited to three novels of contempo (...)

(1) I'm Dicky Roper. My chaps booked some rooms here. N1
(2) “Some bugger nicked my cash off of me at the camp” N
Within the set of qualitative values it is possible to make further distinctions, leading to at least three subtypes (additional distinctions will follow) :
(2) “Some bugger nicked my cash off of me at the camp” N
(3) He looked like some old battered idol as he sat with his pudgy hands in his lap L
(4) “Jesus Christ, Burr. Pine must be some catch !” N

2In this article we aim to demonstrate how such values of SOME result from the parametering of an abstract schematic form according to heterogeneous contextual factors including the type and number of the target noun, the semantic properties of any accompanying adjectives, the syntactic function of the noun phrase and the mood of the proposition, among others.

3We will begin by running briefly over previous research, both on SOME generally and then on its qualitative values, more specifically. We will then posit an abstract invariant operation behind all uses of SOME, formulated within the framework of the Theory of Predicative and Enunciative Operations. The interaction between the posited operation and a number of contextual parameters will then be shown to produce a range of broadly qualitative values.

2. Previous work on qualitative values of SOME

4Much of the work on SOME among English-speaking linguists focuses on the purportedly complementary status of SOME as an affirmative quantifier and ANY as its non-assertive counterpart. The link between the two, pointed out already by Jespersen (1933 : 180-1), is famously formalised by Klima (1964 :280) as the rule of Indef‑incorporation in a chapter of his seminal article on negation entitled "The conversion of Quant(ifiers) into indefinites" (276). This approach posits that the appearance of a SOME or an ANY is conditioned uniquely by the syntactic environment. Both Robin Lakoff (1969) and Bolinger (1960 and 1977) for example, write against this, citing a bewildering profusion of counter-examples in doing so. Bolinger maintains that “SOME and ANY do not have affirmation and negation built into their meaning, but what correlation there is between the two systems is a matter of semantic compatibility” (26) a point of view I would tend to favour, although I would not condone Bolinger's use of Quinean logic to demonstrate his point.

5In many of these exchanges, however, the qualitative values of SOME which interest us today are prudently swept under the carpet – "exorcised" in Bolinger's words (1977 : 25) – since the occurrences involve the additional disruptive factor of stress. Sahlin (1979) represents a relatively complete descriptive account of SOME and ANY which has the merit of paying special attention to the prosodic characteristics both of SOME and ANY and of the surrounding context. Her chapter on SOME II, i.e. SOME "typically having some degree of stress-prominence" (61), contains an interesting selection of authentic examples but the absence of any explicit theorisation makes discussion of her views awkward. SOME followed by a singular count noun is described, for instance, in terms of a collection of the features [+Quantifier, -Definite, -Selective, +Referential, -Specific, -Pro, +Stress] in a curious admixture of the grammatical, the referential and the prosodic.

6Among French-speaking linguists, Léonard, working in the framework of the Theory of Enunciative and Predicative Operations, devotes a substantial article to systematic comparison and discussion of a selection of markers of indefiniteness, including SOME. She discusses the example, There were some sixty spectators in the following terms :

  • 2 Dans le texte : "on a d'abord une quantification sur laquelle some joue qualitativement, ce qui ent (...)

An initial quantification is modified qualitatively by some, inducing a modulation in the quantification such that, while remaining within certain limits, an approximation is introduced. It would seem that this is linked to the fact that some 1) delimits a domain and 2) is associated with the construction of an unspecified differential property. (1983 : 49 My translation.)2

7The concept of the delimitation of a domain, posited by Léonard, is developed in Mazodier (1997) in her detailed study of qualitative instability in uses of SOME followed by singular count nouns. She concludes that :

  • 3 "On peut de nouveau considérer some com[m]e la trace d'une opération qui situe l'occurrence en ques (...)

"some is the trace of an operation situating the occurrence in question inside a notional domain while at the same time marking a distance relative to the centre of the domain, the centre being understood as the norm, i.e. the organizing centre of the notional domain associated with the lexeme." (1997 : 123 My translation.)3

8Baumer (2008a) and (2008b) argues, like Mazodier, for the concept of qualitative instability in describing SOME. And yet Gilbert (2005), working nonetheless within the same theoretical framework, takes a very different stance, preferring to evacuate entirely the question of qualitative determination from the invariant operation marked by SOME :

  • 4 "Mon propos [...] sera d'essayer de montrer que les occurrences construites au moyen de some se car (...)

"I aim […] to attempt to show that occurrences constructed by means of some may be characterised essentially by the absence of this second qualitative dimension. The only formatting carried out by some is that of a merely quantitative delimitation of the notion." (My translation.)4

9It would be rather time-consuming and not necessarily relevant here to go into the reasons underlying the slightly unorthodox line defended by Gilbert (2005). This brief summary of work on SOME and on qualitative SOME in particular does however highlight the diversity of approaches and the absence of any single theoretical consensus, even within the school of thought associated with enunciative linguistics.

10The current account, which I present in the next section, draws a good deal of inspiration from the studies by Léonard and Mazodier. I aim in particular to describe SOME in terms which will be sufficiently precise for their application in different contexts to be amenable to independent verification, and which will also, it is hoped, remain compatible with other – quantitative – uses of SOME that lie outside the scope of the present paper.

11After beginning work on SOME with examples culled from the British National Corpus, I have deliberately reduced the corpus. The BNC turns out to be – in most cases – rather too large a corpus to work on effectively when looking at such a frequently occurring linguistic item. The following paper does not, in any case, aim to unearth any new hitherto unnoticed uses of SOME but rather to propose a more detailed classification, supported by a formal model, to account for examples which are not particularly exceptional in themselves.

3. Hypothesis : SOME as a marker of second order determination (bracketing)

12The hypothesis we will defend in the remainder of this paper, is that, in all its uses, quantitative and qualitative, SOME marks – or more precisely, is the image of – an operation of second-order determination or in other terms "bracketing". This hypothesis requires some explanation.

  • 5 Cf. in a similar vein, the distinction made by Dufaye between intra‑ and extra‑notional determinati (...)

13In his paper on SOME, Gilbert (2005) distinguishes between two types of initial, or first-order, determination : quantitative and qualitative. First-order quantitative determination or QNT1, involves the localisation of an occurrence of a given notion relative to some situation. This is fundamentally a question of existence versus inexistence.5 First-order qualitative determination or QLT1, involves the localisation of an occurrence relative to a notional domain – identification with the organising centre of the domain, i.e. the stereotypical representation that structures the domain.

14Beyond this we can also posit two types of second-order determination, QNT2 and QLT2. QNT2 involves quantification in ordinary language use, i.e. as a certain amount, quantity of a given entity. QLT2 involves qualification and the construction of potential differences within a given notional domain or its associated class of occurrences.

15The presence of SOME indicates that the target notion is the object of second-order determinations. These may be quantitative, as in (1) :

(1) I'm Dicky Roper. My chaps booked some rooms here. N

qualitative, as in (2)

(2) "Some bugger nicked my cash off of me at the camp" N

or indeed combine second-order quantitative and qualitative determinations, as in (5), for example, where some horses delimits both a quantity of horses and a subcategory of the notion /HORSE/ :

(5) The jockey hesitated fatally between pushing him on to lengthen his stride and take off sooner or shortening the reins to get him to put in an extra one before he jumped. In the end he did neither. Simply left it to the horse to sort himself out. Some horses like to do that. Some horses like to be told what to do. F

16This operation of delimitation I refer to as bracketing. We can represent this fairly intuitively as an operation of subdivision within a notional domain :

17Or, more precisely, since we are not dealing with a static representation but with a dynamic operation, as the passage from :

18The fact that SOME indicates second-order bracketing helps to explain certain at first sight paradoxical characteristics. Lakoff (1969), comparing examples such as Who wants to eat any / some beans, claims that SOME carries “positive presuppositions” (613). This would appear to place SOME alongside markers such as THE or THIS, for example. Bolinger, however, considers SOME [sm] “the plural and mass equivalent of the indefinite article and […] [sʌm] with a singular countable […] the emphatic equivalent of the indefinite article” (1979 : 25). Quantitative bracketing indeed implies the preconstruction of the class of occurrences and qualitative bracketing implies the preconstruction of the notional domain although in neither case is it necessary to speak of existential preconstruction as such.

  • 6 Cf. Culioli (1999a : 50) "Nous dénommerons image ce représentant d'une classe de valeurs imaginaire (...)
  • 7 Cf. Léonard (1987 : 48) and note 6 or Culioli (1999b: 181), where the feature is referred to as qua (...)

19We have stated that it would be more precise to say that SOME is the image of an operation of second-order determination. The term image is used to refer to the representation in language of a class of potential values.6 The class, in this instance, is that of different modes of second-order determination. Another way of putting this is to say that, in the sequence SOME N, SOME stands potentially for "a number of / a quantity of / a particular occurrence of / a type of / a degree of …" etc. In this respect it appears to work as a sort of generic classifier, marking – without specifying further – a bracketing operation within the notional domain.7

20When the bracketing is quantitative, then it delimits part of a class of occurrences – and so minimally represents more than zero and less than all, or the set "0 < SOME N < ∞ ". The particular quantity involved is determined by contextual factors.

  • 8 The converse is not necessarily true, however. Plural or non-count nouns can function with qualitat (...)
  • 9 A more traditional terminology might talk of ipseity, quiddity and intensity.

21In the scope of the current paper we are specifically studying qualitative values for SOME. These occur most typically in association with singular count nouns. In such cases it seems self-evident that the association of SOME and the singular filters out quantitative values to leave a form of qualitative bracketing8. This qualitative bracketing can be classified into three basic sorts, depending upon contextual parameters : in the first type, illustrated by (2) "Some bugger nicked my cash off of me at the camp", the occurrence is determined relative to other occurrences ; in the second type, illustrated by (3) He looked like some old battered idol, it is determined relative to the type ; in the third type, illustrated by (4) Pine must be some catch !, it is determined relative to a degree. I refer informally to these three modes of qualitative determination as whichness, whatness and howmuchness, respectively.9

4. Bracketing relative to the occurrence (whichness)

22The first case we consider is that in which SOME targets the identification of the occurrence from among a class of occurrences. In such cases, illustrated by (2), it is frequently possible to append or other to the noun phrase :

(2') "Some bugger or other nicked my cash off of me at the camp" N

23Here the qualitative bracketing concerns the characteristics of the occurrence of /BUGGER/. These are 1) not assimilable to mere typicality – since SOME introduces a differentiation within the domain, i.e. we are dealing with a potentially identifiable individual ; 2) unspecified except by means of the predication, nicked my cash etc, that follows.

24The following case functions similarly :

(6) For some reason he gave me a sheepish grin as I passed. L

25Mazodier remarks in such cases that *for a reason appears unlikely, since the reason in question would then be qualitatively indiscernable from any other occurrence of the class of potential reasons. The use of SOME in association with reason (and way, manner etc.) makes sense in that SOME brackets a particular occurrence, even if the specifications of the occurrence in question can go no further than that.

26This type of bracketing relative to the identification of an occurrence appears to occur in three main contexts, which correspond to the three categories of eventuality, iteration or indefinition, proposed by Culioli in his classification of uses of QUELQUE N (Culioli 1999b : 51-53).

4.1 In projective contexts

27The first subcategory, then, concerns uses of SOME N in what I have referred to as projective contexts, i.e. contexts involving eventuality, as Culioli puts it, or some type of modal hiatus between the speech situation and the projected event situation.

(7) Less than a mile ahead lay my likely Waterloo, in the shape of a crossroads. A halt sign. It was I who would have to halt. Either that or risk hitting a car speeding legitimately along the major road, risk killing some innocent motorist, or his wife, or his child... F
(8) I've tried everything I could think of, he told her. Explored guest bedrooms, looked in parked cars. No one carries a passport round here. Been down to the post office, got the forms, studied the formalities. Visited the town graveyard looking for dead men of my own age ; thought I might apply on their behalf. But you never know what's safe these days : maybe the dead are already in some computer. N
(9) Strelski supposed he should join Prescott in some general damnation of the British, but he didn't feel inclined. N

  • 10 Baumer (2008a) notes that in such cases SOME N may be translated into French by QUELQUE N.

28In such cases the domain involved is selected but its instantiation by an occurrence is suspended simply because of a modal hiatus between the speech situation and the event situation. This is expressed in (7) by the either… or alternative facing the narrator, by the modal adverb maybe in (8) and by the modal should in (9). And so SOME indicates a qualitative bracketing which is necessary but not yet effective.10

4.2 In iterative contexts

29A similar situation involves iterative contexts, where each new instantiation of the notion will potentially involve a new second-order delimitation, a different occurrence of the notion :

(10) 'To be precise, if you want me to be precise, Bert tipped a higher percentage of big-race non-starters than anyone else in the street, and he has been at his best in this direction, or worst, or at any rate his most consistent, during the past year. He'd blow some horse up big, tell everyone to back it at once, and then wham, a day or two before the race it would be scratched.' F
(11) The fishermen still steer a healthy berth round Lanyon Head, where brown rocks lurk like crocodiles at low water and the currents can suck you under on the quietest days, so that every year some fool cowboy from up-country, with a girlfriend and a rubber dinghy, diving for bits of wreck, dives his last or has to be lugged to safety by a rescue helicopter from Culdrose. N

(10) relates the dubious practices of a person involved in the world of horseracing, who habitually (cf. He'd) praises a horse which will, he knows, turn out to be a non-starter. The horse on each occasion is naturally distinct from other horses but that is all we can say about it. (11) describes a particularly dangerous stretch of water which still proves the undoing of tourists. Again, the tourists who succumb – some fool cowboy – are distinct from other occurrences of the same notion but cannot be specified further than that.

30These remarks relate to Mazodier's or Baumer's characterisations of SOME in terms of qualitative instability. I would hesitate to affirm that SOME is the trace of a qualitative instability in itself, however. It appears more appropriate to consider that the qualitative instability in such examples is a result of the interaction between the minimal qualitative bracketing marked by SOME, on the one hand, and the suspended or potential validation, marked variously in the context, on the other.

31The concept of a distance relative to the centre of the domain, again expressed by Mazodier, is also a consequence of this second-order determination. Bracketing within a notional domain introduces differentiation into a previously homogeneous area. Now, since this homogeneous area is structured with reference to the organising centre, or typical occurrence, bracketing necessarily implies a difference relative to this standard measure. The difference then – admittedly rather subtle – between he'd blow some horse up big and he'd blow a horse up big is that a horse simply constructs an occurrence of /HORSE/ which will – all things being equal – be assimilated to any typical horse, whereas the bracketing marked in some horse anticipates the specific, differential features of the occurrence of /HORSE/, in the relation he blow ( ) up big.

4.3 In contexts of subjective indeterminacy

32One last situation where the bracketing bears upon the whichness of an occurrence involves assertive contexts in which the speaker cannot or will not provide specific identification of the occurrence marked by SOME. Again, SOME indicates qualitative bracketing and ipseity but takes things no further than this minimal indentification :

(12) I had the heels of my hands against my mouth and my fingertips in my hair. Some nit on the television was advising everyone to keep their sunny side up. Ross cut him off abruptly in mid note. F
(13) So he bought her. Sarah. The bidding was so quick I didn't really follow it. He had some Pakistani with him and they were sort of bidding together. Then he just turned to me and said, 'She's yours. Where do you want her sent ?' N
(14) [...] she turned to Eva, and so very serenely and seriously, in answer to something the other had said about its being better to die than hear Milton Pinski, some local schoolboy she knew, talk about music, my Lolita remarked : "You know, what's so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on your own" L

33Gilbert (1997) speaks in these cases of possible pejorative connotations associated with SOME. I reproduce one of his examples with commentary, below :

(15) "I studied with a man who used to train attack dogs," she said. "This is not some amateur you're looking at."

Example [15] shows clearly that it is indeed SOME that is at the origin of the pejorative connotation of the utterance. If we replace SOME with the determiner A […] the scornful tone may give way to a simple opposition to another type of occurrence of the class of humans, i.e. a professional. [My translation.]

  • 11 The contemporary use of Whatever to display a certain adolescent indifference in response to affirm (...)

34Although the current article pursues a very different line of argument to that of Gilbert, I feel that it is imprecise, whatever the approach, to attribute a pejorative connotation to SOME. The pejorative tone often associated to such qualitative uses of SOME stems, I would argue, from the fact that SOME tells us that the occurrence is qualitatively particular, but goes no further than that. The context we are currently studying is one of subjective indeterminacy : there is a fine line between I don't know and I don't care, and it is this that generates subjective valuation. Gilbert's example (15) is relatively complex : in saying This is not some amateur you're looking at the speaker is refuting the purported point of view of the cospeaker who is presented as considering the speaker as some amateur. It is – we would maintain – this mark of subjective indeterminacy applied to the – axiomatically determined – cospeaker which is potentially pejorative here11. And so SOME is not in itself pejorative – if it were it would be very hard to account for quasi-exclamative uses, for example – but it may combine with other markers to contribute to minimalising the significance of the occurrence in question by refusing specification.

35Interestingly, a BNC corpus search for adjectival collocates to the immediate right of SOME throws up, among the first twenty results, sorted by criteria of mutual information (i.e. not on mere frequency counts alone), STRANGE, UNKNOWN, OBSCURE, MYSTERIOUS and VAGUE, all of which appear to confirm and reinforce the rôle of SOME as a marker of subjective indeterminacy.

5. Bracketing relative to type (whatness)

36A second sort of bracketing, or second-order determination, that can be marked by SOME is that relative to the organising centre of the associated domain, i.e. a typical occurrence. We have referred to this variety of qualitative determination as whatness, by which we mean those features that enable us to locate an occurrence relative to a notion. These often involve something we will refer to here as LIKE contexts.

5.1 LIKE contexts

37By LIKE contexts I mean constructions of the type LIKE SOME (ADJ) N illustrated by the following examples :

(16) And Roper himself – who had summoned this ghostly legion to the feast – floated over it like some presiding genius, now commandant, now impresario, now sceptic, now fairy godfather. N
(17) Mama Low waddled in and sat down on his folding chair and smiled and shook his head, as if he were remembering some damned tune he couldn't shake out of it. N
(18) The fatal gesture passed like the tail of a falling star across the blackness of the contemplated crime. It was like some dreadful silent ballet, the male dancer holding the ballerina by her foot and streaking down through watery twilight. L

38In LIKE contexts the addition of OR OTHER is clearly impossible : ? ? like some presiding genius or other etc.

39Here the bracketing no longer bears upon occurrences of the same notion. Rather an occurrence of one notion is determined in comparison to a fictitious occurrence of another. SOME indicates qualitative bracketing and, concomitantly, a difference between the fictitious occurrence in question and the organising centre of the domain.

40In (16), for example, SOME determines a subtype of /GENIUS/ which is further qualified by the adjective presiding as well as by the following appositions now commandant, now impresario, now sceptic, now fairy godfather. (17) and (18) follow the same logic : in (17) SOME brackets a subtype of tune, determined by damned and the following relative, while in (18) SOME brackets a subtype of ballet, again further determined with both pre‑ (dreadful silent) and postmodification (the male dancer… twilight).

  • 12 This is not the case with (14) above, for example, some local schoolboy she knew. Compare again : [ (...)

41It is important to note that SOME and the adjectival elements operate together in delimiting a subcategory. In other words, a gloss of like some presiding genius is like a certain type of genius, a presiding genius and not like a certain type of presiding genius.12 Our intuition is that, if such examples – which are admittedly more common in literary texts – are read aloud, this parallel function will be reflected prosodically with similar peaks on SOME and the accompanying, cooriented, qualitative determinations.

  • 13 "Il est tout à fait logique que l'on trouve des éléments qui contribuent à stabiliser une référence (...)

42There is, furthermore, something paradoxical about this use of SOME. Normally, the term to the right of LIKE is a locator, which contributes to the determination of a locatum. As such, we would expect it to be referentially stable. SOME however merely brackets a notion without any further specification. In such circumstances it is easy to appreciate that the additional determination provided by adjectives, relatives or appositions is more or less obligatory since these all provide focus for the differential properties posited by SOME. It is as if the speaker were elaborating the simile on the fly, so to speak, beginning by indicating qualitative bracketing and then going on to specify this differential determination. These remarks tie up with Baumer's comment that qualitative uses of SOME often involve hyperonymous nouns, these being either left explicitly vague – cf. the collocations UNKNOWN etc. – or given further disambiguating specification13.

6. Bracketing relative to degree (howmuchness)

43The last type of qualitative bracketing marked by SOME is illustrated by example (4), which I reproduce below :

(4) "Jesus Christ, Burr. Pine must be some catch !" N

44While in (4) some catch implies a good, valuable, important catch, and hence could be seen as operating an intensification of the notion /CATCH/, i.e. an occurrence for which the degree to which the property /BE CATCH/ is validated is greater than average, this is not always the case. In (19), for example, the effect is quite the opposite :

(19) He rolled against the wall, waving the pipe vaguely in his chubby fist. "Never leave a pub before closing. Never leave a story while it’s hot. Never leave a woman on her door-step. Paragraphs and skirts should be short and pheasants and breasts should be high." / "Sure," I said sighing. Some advice. F

45Here some advice appears rather to disqualify the previous list of injunctions as /ADVICE/ or at the least to suggest that this is a poor example of the notion, an occurrence which possesses less than the normal degree of the property /BE ADVICE/.

46Both examples in any case bear upon the determinations of degree or howmuchness of the notion in question. In the next two sections we shall refine our classification further, looking in turn at meliorative and minorative cases.

6.1 Meliorative S BE SOME N

(4) "Jesus Christ, Burr. Pine must be some catch !" N
(20) Sometimes old Savigny had these flashes of insight, and she loved him for them. "He must be some boy to catch a girl like you. Is he eager ? Does he love you to distraction ? Write to you three times a day ?" N
(21) Linden, he's some sailor, Jason conceded. But that Harlow, the fat one, he doesn't know his arse from his rudder. N

47In each of the above examples the bracketing marked by SOME bears upon the degree to which the notion is realised. A gloss might be no ordinary N, no common catch etc. suggesting that SOME brackets a degree of a notional domain greater than or in any case different from what one would usually expect.

48An important factor in the identification of this particular type of bracketing is the syntax. The basic schema appears to be, at least in the case of the meliorative use, S BE SOME N. In other words the speaker generally predicates BE SOME N of the grammatical subject, more often than not a pronoun. Additionally, the noun in question receives no further determination : the only indication is given by SOME.

  • 14 I use the term topic in the technical sense of the French term repère constitutif.

49If we consider that the subject is an established topic the identification of which is unproblematic to speaker and cospeaker14, then the bracketing obviously cannot bear on the whichness of the noun. The fact that there is no further specification rules out whatness or bracketing by type. This only leaves howmuchness or bracketing according to degree insofar, of course, as the domain associated with the noun may be construed with a gradient.

6.2 Minorative SOME N S BE

50There is a potential problem, however, since bracketing according to degree can also indicate a lower degree than what we would normally expect, as in (19) which I quote again (22) or (23) :

(19) He rolled against the wall, waving the pipe vaguely in his chubby fist. "Never leave a pub before closing. Never leave a story while it’s hot. Never leave a woman on her door-step. Paragraphs and skirts should be short and pheasants and breasts should be high." / "Sure," I said sighing. Some advice. F
(22) Eddie George, soon to be the governor of the Bank of England, has asked to have his salary frozen for his five-year term to demonstrate his determination to fight inflation. His new salary is thought to be about 220,000 ($ 137,000) a year. Some sacrifice, sneered the union representing the bank's 4,500 workers, before calling for wage talks. BNC
(23) M Want some ?
L No.
N Yes please.
L I'm on a diet aren't I ? […]
M Some diet that is ! BNC Spoken.

51In these examples, the speaker appears to be saying, as we have noted, that the occurrence in question does not fully correspond to /ADVICE/, /SACRIFICE/ or /DIET/, respectively, or that it possesses the property to a lower than typical degree.

  • 15 My thanks to Emmanuel Baumer for giving me access to this unpublished paper which points out differ (...)

52How are these orientations – meliorative or minorative – generated from what is often presented as an identical schema ? In an unpublished paper, Baumer (2008b) conducts an interesting study in which he compares the syntactic and prosodic features of meliorative and minorative SOME. It appears that, syntactically, meliorative SOME generally corresponds to a S BE SOME N ! pattern, while minorative SOME correspond either to a non verbal utterance, of the form SOME N ! or to an utterance of the form SOME N S BE ! with topicalisation of the attributive complement. Prosodically, the two values are also expressed differently. In Baumer's study, native speakers asked to read aloud passages featuring both types of SOME generally marked meliorative SOME with a high fall while placing minorative SOME at a lower onset pitch, with a correspondingly smaller prosodic fall between SOME and the following N. Furthermore, when the subject is mentioned, it receives contrastive stress, marking its non correspondance with the notion involved.15

53The syntactic distinction then is clearly doubled by a prosodic distinction. We would argue, along the same lines as Baumer, that the fronting and relatively weaker stress on SOME N in minorative examples indicates that the notion in question has topic status, and hence a direct link with the previous context. More often than not, a speaker in fact uses this minorative SOME to undermine a correspondance between an occurrence and a notion established by some other speaker, present or not. This is confirmed by the above examples where the domains /ADVICE/, /SACRIFICE/ and /DIET/ are explicitly or implicitly present, and previously endorsed by some other speaker.

  • 16 Both Gilbert and Baumer point out the existence of certain examples which, although they appear to (...)

54In meliorative examples, on the other hand, there is no such tapping in to another speaker's representation. The speaker predicates BE SOME N of a given topic, selecting both the notion and the determination, a point made both by the syntax as well as by the prosody.16

7. Remarks in conclusion

55Let us run briefly over the ground covered in the previous discussion.

56SOME, in constructions of the general form SOME N, is claimed to mark an operation of second-order determination or bracketing, relative to a notional domain.

57This may in turn be interpreted contextually as quantitative – in which case SOME brackets an amount of the notion in question – or qualitative – in which case SOME brackets a quality of the notion in question.

58Such qualitative uses may be categorised further into at least three subtypes, according to the type of determination involved.

  • When SOME brackets an occurrence of a notion, the determination bears on whichness, typically in contexts of modal hiatus, iteration or subjective indeterminacy.

  • When SOME brackets a subcategory of a notion, the determination bears on whatness, typically in contexts of comparison, and in association with further marks of sortal determination.

  • When SOME brackets a degree of a notion, the determination bears on howmuchness, which will typically tend towards meliorative or minorative effects. These are closely linked to topic selection.

59The concept of second-order determination enables us to provide an innovative explanation for the different qualitative values of SOME as so many configurations of an abstract schematic form.

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Bibliographie

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BAUMER, Emmanuel. 2008b. "Les emplois appréciatifs de SOME : prosodie et syntaxe." Communication orale au Treizième colloque d’avril sur l’anglais oral de l'ALOES, Université Paris-Nord, Villetaneuse.

BOLINGER, D. 1977. "Any and Some", in Meaning and Form, London, Longman, 21–36.

CULIOLI, Antoine. 1999 [1983]. "A propos de quelque", in Pour une linguistique de l'énonciation. Paris : Ophrys. pp. 49-58.

DUFAYE, Lionel. 2001. "Le système des auxiliaires de modalité et la négation." in BOUSCAREN, Janine, Alain DESCHAMPS, and Lionel DUFAYE (eds). 2001. Modalité et Opérations Énonciatives. Paris : Ophrys.

DUFAYE, Lionel. 2009. Théorie des opérations énonciatives et modélisation : cheminement d’une réflexion linguistique. Paris : Ophrys.

GILBERT, Eric. 2005. "SOME et la construction d'une occurrence", Cycnos Vol 16 N° 2. Mis en ligne le 30 août 2005.

JESPERSEN, Otto. 1933. Essentials of English Grammar. London. Unwin and Allen.

LAKOFF, Robin. 1969. "Some reasons why there can't be any some-any rule". Language. 45.3. Linguistics Society of America. 608-615.

LANCRI, Annie. 2006. "Les emplois qualitatifs de ALL, SOME et NO ou la notion revisitée". Cycnos, vol. 23 N° 1. Mis en ligne le 30 juin 2008.

LEONARD, Anne-Marie. 1983. "Etude différentielle de quelques indéfinis anglais," in Ficher, S. and Franckel, J.-J. (Eds.), Linguistique, énonciation. Aspects et détermination. Paris : EHESS. pp. 45-80.

MAZODIER, Catherine. 1997. "'I must have read it in some article' : Instabilité qualitative de some + discontinu singulier". Cahiers de Recherche en Grammaire Anglaise. Tome 7. Paris : Ophrys. pp. 109-126.

RANGER, Graham. 2012. "Quotative LIKE in contemporary non standard English", in Arts et savoirs no. 2. http://lisaa.univ-mlv.fr/arts-et-savoirs/

SAHLIN, Elizabeth. 1979. Some and Any in Spoken and Written English. Studia Anglitica Upsaliensia 38. Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell International.

Corpus :

FRANCIS, Dick (1968). Forfeit. London : Michael Joseph. (F)

LE CARRÉ, John (1993). The Night Manager. London : Hodder and Stoughton. (N)

NABOKOV, Vladimir (1955). Lolita. Paris : Olympia Press. (L)

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Notes

1 This is not a quantitative study and our corpus is deliberately limited to three novels of contemporary English, referred to respectively as F, L and N : Dick Francis, Forfeit (1968), Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955), John Le Carré, The Night Manager (1993).

2 Dans le texte : "on a d'abord une quantification sur laquelle some joue qualitativement, ce qui entraîne une modulation de la quantification telle que, tout en restant dans un certain ordre de grandeur, on introduit une approximation. Il semble bien que ceci soit lié au fait que some, d'une part, délimite un domaine et est, d'autre part, associé à la construction d'une propriété différentielle hors explicitation" (49).

3 "On peut de nouveau considérer some com[m]e la trace d'une opération qui situe l'occurrence en question à l'intérieur d'un domaine notionnel tout en marquant son écart par rapport au centre, le centre correspondant cette fois-ci à la norme, c'est-à-dire au centre organisateur du domaine notionnel associé au lexème." (123)

4 "Mon propos [...] sera d'essayer de montrer que les occurrences construites au moyen de some se caractérisent essentiellement par l'absence de cette deuxième dimension qualitative, le formatage effectué par ce marqueur se ramenant à une simple délimitation quantitative de la notion".

5 Cf. in a similar vein, the distinction made by Dufaye between intra‑ and extra‑notional determinations (2001: 107) or between a defining QLT (QLT définitoire) and a differential QLT (QLT différentiel) (2009: 87).

6 Cf. Culioli (1999a : 50) "Nous dénommerons image ce représentant d'une classe de valeurs imaginaires : ainsi QUI dans Qui a ouvert la fenêtre ?"

7 Cf. Léonard (1987 : 48) and note 6 or Culioli (1999b: 181), where the feature is referred to as quantifiabilisation.

8 The converse is not necessarily true, however. Plural or non-count nouns can function with qualitative values for SOME.

9 A more traditional terminology might talk of ipseity, quiddity and intensity.

10 Baumer (2008a) notes that in such cases SOME N may be translated into French by QUELQUE N.

11 The contemporary use of Whatever to display a certain adolescent indifference in response to affirmations or injunctions appears to obey a similar logic.

12 This is not the case with (14) above, for example, some local schoolboy she knew. Compare again : […] he stared down at the floor and shuffled his feet like some clumsy schoolboy BNC.

13 "Il est tout à fait logique que l'on trouve des éléments qui contribuent à stabiliser une référence qui, du fait de la présence de some dans l'énoncé, apparaît initialement comme floue". (Baumer 2008a: 58) "It makes sense for there to be elements that contribute to stabilising a reference which, thanks to SOME in the utterance, appears initially fuzzy" [My translation.]

14 I use the term topic in the technical sense of the French term repère constitutif.

15 My thanks to Emmanuel Baumer for giving me access to this unpublished paper which points out differences that appear to have escaped the notice of many other authors. Even Sahlin (1979) who is one of the rare linguists to have studied the prosodic issues involves considers the two indifferently, possibly because her corpus contains only two examples.

16 Both Gilbert and Baumer point out the existence of certain examples which, although they appear to bear on questions of degree, are not clearly meliorative or minorative.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Graham Ranger, « Parameters for the configuration of some qualitative SOME's »Corela [En ligne], 12-2 | 2014, mis en ligne le 29 janvier 2015, consulté le 24 mars 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/corela/3642 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/corela.3642

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