LINGUIST List 4.873

Mon 25 Oct 1993

Sum: That Will Teach You, Addendum to Infixation Summary

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  1. Laurie Bauer, Summary: That will teach you
  2. , Addendum to Infixation Summary

Message 1: Summary: That will teach you

Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 11:03:19 Summary: That will teach you
From: Laurie Bauer <>
Subject: Summary: That will teach you

A couple of weeks ago I posted a note on the construction 'That will teach
X (not) to Y', in which I queried whether there was a polarity switch here
(if you teach then not to Y, you want them to Y) and whether the
construction was simply idiomatic and thus uninteresting synchronically
(though possibly interesting diachronically).

Thanks to the large numbers of people who replied either to the net or
direct to me with various suggestions and observations: (Arkady Borkovsky)
David Denison <> (Deborah Milam Berkley) (Steven Schaufele)
James Magnuson <>
jtomeiOREGON.UOREGON.EDU (Joseph George Tomei)
"Luuk Lagerwerf" <>
Paul T Kershaw <> (Richard Coates) (ursula.doleschal)
(I hope I haven't missed anyone).

1: Is the construction idiomatic?
Possibly, but that explanation starts to look weak given that the same
construction can be found in at least Dutch, German, French, Russian,
Ukranian and Bulgarian. While common idioms are possible (someone cites
'Take the bull by the horns'), I think that an alternative explanation
would be preferable under these circumstances. Note, though, that all the
languages cited are Indo-European. Nobody provided similar data from
non-I-E languages.
On the other hand, while 'That will show him!' was cited as parallel, we
cannot (can we?) have the same reading with 'That will indicate to him!',
'That will demonstrate to you!', so there are restrictions on appropriate
verbs, and that looks idiomatic.
2: Is it a matter of irony?
Several people suggested this. We may need to distinguish between ironical
in origin and being used ironically today. This solution stills runs into
the problem that so many languages show the same pattern (unless its
origins lie way back in Proto-I-E). Would so many languages show irony in
precisely the same place?
3: Are there other similar constructions?
There are various suggestions here. (1) I really miss having a phonologist
around the house. versus I really miss not having a phonologist around the
house. "Don't shout more than you can help." (2) German 'Vorsicht dass du
nicht faellst' and Spanish 'Cuidado que te caigas' (Be careful (not) to
fall down) (3) German 'Lebensgefahr' and French 'danger de mort'. (4) I
couldn't care less! versus I could care less! (5) I really miss not having
a car (any more).(6) You will excuse my being so much overpowered. (Jane
Austen) (7) You're a fine one to talk! [I'm less convinced this is parallel
-- the irony is very overt here, LB] (8) a (fat) lot of good THAT'll do
[same comment, LB]. Precisely which of these count as parallel depends
upon your attitude to the original construction, but there are at least
some other possibilities.
4: Is the intonation special?
THAT will teach you not to come versus That will teach you not to COME. I
think I can have either reading with either pattern, but the former is more
common and for some people seems to be the only one for the 'ironical'
5: Can this be interpreted straight-forwardly without appeal to idiom,
polarity switch, irony or anything else?
Some people suggested this, most clearly Paul Kershaw in his message to the
net, LINGUIST List: Vol-4-844. I won't try to summarise that here.
Thanks to everyone. Hope the summary is useful.
Department of Linguistics, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington, New
Ph: +64 4 472 1000 x 8800 Fax: +64 4 471 2070
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Message 2: Addendum to Infixation Summary

Date: Sun, 24 Oct 93 16:13:14 EDAddendum to Infixation Summary
From: <>
Subject: Addendum to Infixation Summary

I somehow completely omitted to mention that David Stampe
(and now also Peter Salus) point out that the fan-bloody-tastic
pattern (where different dialects use different items for bloody)
is an example of infixation arising by some route other than
those suggested in my summary (metathesis or reanalysis of
parts of a suffix or prefix chain).
Does anybody know of any other such examples?
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