Rufio (oracular_rufio) wrote in linguaphiles,

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Japanese: -ないで versus -なくて

So, this came up while we were reviewing for our Japanese final, and the professor couldn't really answer it.

昔は, 勉強しなくてもよかったものです is obviously correct. But apparently 昔は, (ねないでも,) 勉強しないでもよかったものです is not. The professor explained that this was because -なくてもいい is a set expression meaning "it's OK not to" or "it's OK even if (negative)" and that も (= also) can only be used with nouns otherwise. But this is a pretty unsatisfying explanation for me, because て-forms are treated in noun-like ways quite a bit (-てほしい, -てあげる, etc.) and so is -ないで in negative requests (-ないで下さい) and it seems kind of arbitrary that it can't be used with いい in this case.

Is it that:

1) -ないで can only modify verbs: 勉強しないで, いい点を取ったんです is ok but the above is not, because いい is an adjective.
2) Despite apparent similarities, -ないで and -なくて really are different parts of speech.
3) Something else? To be honest, I'm not even sure why it is that -ないで下さい is right when -なくてほしい is too.

Can someone with a more deeply linguistic knowledge of Japanese clear this up for me?

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