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- “Everything is not…” 4 answers
My question is about how a negated "all", "any", and "every" statements are usually and correctly understood in English. I have just realized an apparent parsing ambiguity in all such statements (i.e., two different possible readings). Consider the following examples, each containing not and then all/any/every:
"The giraffe was not standing on all/any/every one of its legs."
"The talk was not understood by all/any/every member(s) of the audience."
We do not live far from all/any/every one of the best museums in the city.
The ambiguity is, in each case: (1) is either "The giraffe was standing on none of its legs" or "The giraffe was standing on less than 4 legs"; (2) is either "The talk was was lost on everyone" or "The talk was lost on at least one person"; (3) is either "We live close to every museum" or "We live close to at least one museum."
But the word choice all/any/every seems to give some indication:
Using all seems to imply less than 4 legs. Using any seems to imply 0 legs. Using every one could go either way for me.
Using all seems to imply at least one person was lost. Using any seems to apply everyone was lost. Using every could go either way.
This one breaks the pattern. Using all, any, or every one all seem to imply being close to every museum.
So my question: What general rules can be used to determine which of the two interpretations is valid? What are the patterns involving all, any, and every? What are the patterns based on the placement of not within the sentence?
Bonus: Is there any data on the usage and interpretation in English of negation before an all/any/every statement?
P.S. It may clear things up to consider the logical parsings of the statement. The two interpretations of (1) are (roughly)
(The giraffe) (was not) (standing on all of its legs)
(The giraffe) was (not standing) (on all of its legs).
Although it is confusing to wrap one's mind around the two readings, they both seem equally valid to me and the logical form makes it clear they are distinct (I hope I have also communicated that to some degree in the examples above).
I originally noticed this based on an excerpt from a legal document defining unattended vehicles:
Motor Vehicle...That is left unattended on or along a highway or other public property for more than forty-eight (48) hours and does not bear all of the following:
a. Valid registration plate.
b. A current certificate of inspection.
c. An ascertainable vehicle identification number.
So I asked on Law StackExchange. Amusingly, the answer they gave contains exactly the same not...all ambiguity as in my original excerpt. So I decided to take it here, with more simple and clear examples.