LINGUIST List 9.240

Wed Feb 18 1998

Sum: Test for a Universal (`but', `also')

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Arthur Merin, Report on Test for a Universal (`but', `also')

Message 1: Report on Test for a Universal (`but', `also')

Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 14:02:13 +0100 (MET)
From: Arthur Merin <arthurIMS.Uni-Stuttgart.DE>
Subject: Report on Test for a Universal (`but', `also')

This is to report on the result of a call for testing a candidate
universal hypothesis concerning bona fide translation equivalents of
the English clausal conjunction 'but' and of the focus particle
'also'. (Volume 8.501 of Linguist List, 11 April 1997.)

At the editors' suggestion, here is, first, the hypothesis again for
convenience of reference:

> Any language having bona fide translation equivalents
> of the coordinating conjunction `but' will have
> equivalents of
> (1) `Kim walks but {Kim/(s)he[K]} talks' (Pa but Qa)
> acceptable in suitable contexts (here, e.g.: we are
> looking for a very silent messenger), whereas
> equivalents of
> (2) *`Kim walks but Sandy walks' (Pa but Pb)
> will never be acceptable (assuming default prosody
> or a suitable equivalent - see below), while in any
> language having, in addition, a bona fide translation
> equivalent of `also' or `too', equivalents of
> (3) `Kim walks but Sandy {also walks/walks too}'
> will always be acceptable again.
> Explanatory Note: "Default prosody" for English means at the
> very least: absence (or nonobligatoriness) of a marked pause
> preceding `but'. I.e. the unacceptability judgment for
> (2) is claimed to be stable for that single-speaker reading
> (both with regard to prosody and interpretation) which is NOT
> paraphraseable as
> (4) `Kim walks, but then Sandy walks'
> where `then' is NON-TEMPORAL, as evidenced by preservation of
> its intended interpretation in
> (5) `Kim has walked, but then Sandy has walked'.
> (The intended and, for atemporal `then', presumably obligatory
> reading for the English ex. (4) is one where the second clause
> introduces an explanation for the eventuality designated by the
> first.)

No counterexamples to the hypothesis have been reported. 

Arthur Merin
Institute for Language and Computation (IMS)
University of Stuttgart
Azenbergstr. 12
70174 Stuttgart

Arthur Merin
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