Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Complementary Alternation Discourse Constructions in English: A Preliminary Study 1

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Complementary Alternation Discourse Constructions in English: A Preliminary Study 1

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The present paper offers the reader a preliminary analysis of a set of related discourse constructions, which fall under the umbrella of the so-called complementary alternation relations (cf. Mairal & Ruiz de Mendoza, 2009: 176). Such relations have been programmatically posited by Mairal and Ruiz de Mendoza (2009) as underlying a family of discourse constructions. The notion of "family," which has been extensively used as an organizing factor in the domain of lexical meaning, has also been used productively to account for similarities and differences among non-lexical constructions, i.e. entrenched formmeaning pairings of whatever complexity at any descriptive level. For example, GonzálvezGarcía (2009; 2012) has used the notion of family resemblance to carry out a detailed analysis of object-related depictives involving verba cogitandi (e.g. I find her so sweet, He considers you a friend, We all thought him dead), Goldberg and Jackendoff (2004) for the many kinds of resultative constructions (e.g. She shot him dead, He molded clay into a bird, She kicked him black and blue), and Del Campo (2011; 2013) for a broad variety of illocutionary constructions (e.g. Will you help me?, Help me, will you?, Do you think you could help me?, etc.).

According to Mairal and Ruiz de Mendoza (2009), complementary alternation constructions are to be distinguished from contrastive alternation constructions. In the latter (e.g. Either you win or you lose), two alternates are presented as being antithetical. By contrast, in the former the alternates are not exclusive of each other (e.g. No one insulted him nor did physical harm to him). This view of complementary alternation relations is in need of a more precise definition. According to Mairal and Ruiz de Mendoza (2009), the concept of complementary alternation is to be understood in paradigmatic contrast with other semantic extension relations such as meaning addition (She is an excellent mother and a good neighbour too) and meaning exception (He believes there is no genius other than himself). This is only partially correct. The complementary alternation has a clear additive ingredient where the assumption expressed by one of the alternates is endowed with greater strength (thus receiving focal prominence) than the other. This can happen in two ways. In one, the alternates negate what the speaker believes are someone's assumptions (e.g. I would never date, let alone marry, someone as rude as you). In the other, the alternates are positive (e.g. I always cry watching sad films, let alone reading their scripts) and simply add information where the second alternate is more emphatic than the first. Furthermore, in the first situation, the first and second alternate are in a logical cause-consequence relationship where, if the first were the case, that would open the door for the second to be possible. Negating the first logically precludes the second from ever taking place.

These uses are marked by such connectors as let alone, much less, even less, never mind, not to mention, and to say nothing of and can be considered to structure a special group of constructions within the complementary alternation family. Dictionaries2 usually treat some of these connectors as largely equivalent and indeed they can be interchangeable: No one insulted him, let alone/much less/still less did physical harm to him; She has produced an amazing musical project, not to mention/to say nothing of her new DVD. However, here there are uses of these connectors where they are not necessarily interchangeable. The present article offers the reader preliminary work identifying such uses and determines relevant meaning differences among them. This allows us to arrange them, as suggested above, on the basis of family resemblance relations (cf. Taylor, 1995).

In order to discuss the group of complementary alternation constructions selected above, the present study will make use of the Lexical Constructional Model, or LCM, as propounded by Ruiz de Mendoza and Mairal (2008, 2011), Mairal and Ruiz de Mendoza (2009), Ruiz de Mendoza (2013), and Ruiz de Mendoza and Galera (2014) (cf. …

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