An afterthought on let alone

Abstract : We here revisit the let alone construction, which was first described in a 1980s paper that put Construction Grammar on the map. Our focus is on a seemingly aberrant use where the first conjunct does not entail the restored second conjunct, as in I don't have ten children, let alone one. We argue that this use should not be considered as a highly exceptional speech error or as evidence that some speakers wrongly assume that the first proposition is the entailed one. First, a systematic examination of let alone examples extracted from the BNC and COCA shows that it is not exceedingly rare, as does a growing collection of authentic examples we have collected over the years. Second, it constitutes a usage type in its own right, whereby the first proposition has most contextual relevance and the second conjunct is represented by the speaker as an apophasis-like afterthought. There are transitional cases between the two types (canonical and afterthought), where both conjuncts have considerable relevance. For contemporary speakers, the afterthought use may require extraction of a general pattern with bleached semantics and pragmatics, possibly refilled in with specific information.
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Submitted on : Monday, October 26, 2015 - 2:47:05 PM
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Bert Cappelle, Edwige Dugas, Vera Tobin. An afterthought on let alone. Journal of Pragmatics, Elsevier, 2015, 80, pp.70-85. ⟨10.1016/j.pragma.2015.02.005⟩. ⟨hal-01219314⟩

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