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Summary Details


Query:   use of 'go ahead' in spoken English
Author:  Emma Pavey
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Semantics

Summary:   Hi.
This summary is in response to a message posted several weeks ago regarding the use of ?go ahead? in spoken English. Many apologies for the delay in posting a summary.

I?d particularly like to thank Patrick Hanks, Harold Schiffman, Tivoli Majors, J L Speranza, Bruce Despain and Betsy Evans for their replies.

Respondents offered categorizations of uses of ?go ahead?. Most of these include a use involving permission/softening of a command/politeness (e.g. the rest of you can go ahead and stay seated). Tivoli Majors added the use of ?go ahead? in an almost opposite sense, as part of a dare: ?Go ahead and fire me?. She also adds a choice between two courses of action. e.g. I?ll go ahead a stop there?but I could go on.

Patrick Hanks provided the following categorization
1. [[Activity | Plan]] go ahead
2. [[Person | Institution]] go ahead
2.1 [[Person | Institution]] go ahead and [V]
2.2 [[Person | Institution]] go ahead {with [[Activity | Plan]]}
3. [[HumanGroup = Competitor]] go ahead (Domain: sports journalism)
4. INTERPERSONAL: IMPERATIVE/go ahead = invitation to interlocutor to door say whatever he or she was intending to do or say.

Patrick Hanks, Harold Schiffman and JL Speranza note the figurative sense of the expression; it is often simply used as a ?filler?. Patrick Hanks observes that it is almost always temporal, involving an action, and needs to be modified to work in a spaciotemporal sense: ?go on ahead?? (Hanks? work on light and phrasal verbs is based within the ?Corpus Pattern Analysis? project based at Brandeis University, linking meaning and use by building an inventory of semantically motivated syntagmatic patterns for each verb in English).

Finally, Betsy Evans pointed me to a recent movie, Office Space, where a character uses the phrase a lot. This is reflected in others? observations that the phrase is common in bureaucratic and office-related environments.

Thanks for the replies, sorry again for the delay.
Emma Pavey

LL Issue: 15.970
Date Posted: 22-Mar-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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