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Besides the position of "not", is there any difference in meaning or style between the following three sentences?
1. Is not the whole land before you?

2. Isn't the whole land before you?

3. Is the whole land not before you?

Thank you very much for your reply.
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Hello Teo


1. Is not the whole land before you?
2. Isn't the whole land before you?
3. Is the whole land not before you?

The sentence #1 sounds very awkward, almost ungrammatical.
The sentence #2 is the form most common and most natural.
The sentence #3 is OK, though it sounds a little too formal.
paco
Hello Teo again

Let's start with the normal predicate "The whole land is before you". And first let's negate it and then change it to a question form by inverting the subject and the finite verbal. Then the process would be like as the below:
(Informal NEG) The whole land isn't before you. -> inversion -> Isn't the whole land before you?
(Formal NEG) The whole land is not before you. -> inversion -> Is the whole land not before you?
We can't make "Is not the whole land before you?" by such an operation. So "Is not the whole land before you" is deemed as incorrect at least in current English (this type of negation question was used before 17 century).
paco
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Interesting. It doesn't seem incorrect to me in all cases, although almost all cases where the subject is a pronoun seem incorrect.

Is not he the president? (Seems incorrect.)
Is not the whole land before you? (Seems pompous or poetic or archaic, but not incorrect.)
Hello CJ

Maybe 'incorrect' is incorrrect. But Larsen-Freeman (1983) said that style is 'an archaic historical vestige'. By the way I'd like to know why pronominal subjects and non-pronominal subjects are different in the allowance of the construct <Is Subject not ...>. Could you kindly explain the reason in a way we ESL studnts can understand?

paco
I'm afraid I can't explain it. I deliberately used the word "seem" to indicate that this is just an impressionistic view, and not something founded in anything deeper than that. Maybe others will post more thoughts on the subject. Emotion: smile
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Thank you, CJ.

paco
Sentence #1 is quoted from the New International Version of the Holy Bible. So it may be a formally acceptable (perhaps unidiomatic) sentence.
I find nothing wrong with all three. 'Isn't', of course, is the contraction of 'is not'. There could be more than a Biblical reason for not wanting to contract the words.

'Is not he the President?' seems viable to me, if I'm in the middle of pontificating, for instance.
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