Posted: Jul 12, 2016 12:57 pm
by don't get me started
Thommo wrote:

I enjoy your posts here and often read them without comment, but are you sure about this one? I've never heard that form used (here in England). "There is no teacher in this classroom", sure. "there isn't a teacher in this classroom", definitely no. There are idioms that spring to mind that have similar forms though, such as "there isn't a problem in sight" or "there isn't a cloud in the sky".


Thank you for the positive comments Thommo. I do have a tendency to go on about linguistic (and other) stuff I find interesting, hence my user name. It's gratifying to know that others find my monologues enjoyable.
Anyways, I gave your comments a bit of thought and did some searching of data sources to see what the picture is vis-a-vis "There is no..." versus "There isn't a..."

The British National Corpus shows the following frequencies for the expressions:

"There are no..."= 2,512
"There is no..." = 11, 585
"There aren't any..."=145
"There isn't a..." =206

So, yes, there are some pretty major differentials in frequencies of the forms. (This is all a bit rough and ready. A more nuanced investigation may throw light on the situation.)

"There is no.." would probably have such a high frequency as it can be used with countable nouns as in:

"Surely science must be close to forecasting such natural catastrophes? There is no pattern to earthquakes. They are caused by the giant plates which carry the continents bumping and grinding into each other as they float around the Earth's molten centre." (Line 15 of the concordance result)

"There is no..." can also be used with uncountable nouns as in:
"There is no heating because there is no fuel, and..." (Line 39 of the concordance)

Here are the fist 10 examples from the corpus search for "There isn't a..." (as is usual with concordance lines, don't read just skim.)

1. 'll have to admit I do like that (pause) a lovely (unclear) (pause) there is n't a fridge in er (pause) in a my (unclear) either. (SP:PS02H) What about one
2. a horse box for carrying horses around. But it's empty. There is n't a horse in it. If I can get across this road (pause) and the
3. (unclear) (pause) (SP:PS04Y) (unclear) (pause) (SP:PS04U) I think that's a good idea there is n't a (unclear) bet there be a real seller (pause) those boxes (unclear) they, I
4. it on. (SP:PS088) I had a (pause) different one. (SP:PS087) Well there is n't a different one darling. (SP:PS0XR) It'll be all different this from what you
5. . We've got the two most important ones. (SP:PS09E) I suppose there is n't a little knob on it that would just happen to work zeros? (pause) (SP:PS09G)
6. English, Polish (pause) erm (pause) ooh (pause) and French (unclear) cemeteries. There is n't a German one. (SP:PS09T) No. No. (SP:PS09X) No. (SP:PS09T) (unclear) (laugh) (SP:PS09W) Now
7. winkles her way in if there's a free lunch going. (SP:PS0C1) There is n't a free lunch on it, it's company internal software. (SP:PS0BY) Oh.
8. , (unclear)2. (SP:PS0CG) That is a Sycamore cos it isn't a, there is n't a conker tree around here that's Sycamore, there they are, that's
9. yeah! (SP:PS0EB) And you look at the chair just to make sure there is n't a pool on there! (SP:PS0EC) (laughing) Yeah! (SP:PS0EB) And you walk away going
10. worked out. (SP:PS1BU) I'll have the crusts. (SP:PS1BS) No, but there is n't a crust. (SP:PS1BU) Oh oh! (SP:PS1BS) Well if you, he's developed

It must be noted that the instances of "there is no..." seemed to be largely drawn from the written form of the language, while the form "There isn't a ..." were likely to be from spoken interactions. Your intuition about "There isn't a..." seems to be borne out by it's relative infrequency in corpus compared with some other forms of negative existential phrases. Thanks for raising the issue...more food for thought.