[lit-ideas] Re: Ownership and the possessive case

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 06 May 2009 19:44:16 -0700

JL wrote

donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:

"not to threaten visiting lecturers  with pokers".

It's not ungrammatical, at least not in any serious way - ---

But you'll grant it's enthymematic.

No, I won't. 'Enthymematic,' an obscure word that I had to look up in the OED, is said of certain arguments, which turn out to be enthymemes, a roundabout way of saying of them that they are lacking a premise necessary for them to be gültig. Notice that I say, 'a premise,' for although in kindergarten logic, one is taught to remedy enthymes like this

All Fs are Gs.
[            ]
All Fs are Ws

in other cases, the missing premise may be a matter of conjecture.

In another possible world sentences may be enthymematic (although they cannot be enthymemes in this one).

Surely it's "threaten _to kill_" which is meant there.


(Perhaps injure, hurt? cfr. the scale of implicature, <hurt, injure, kill>).

'The boss threatened to fire Smith if he didn't stop taking three-hour lunch breaks.'

(Whereupon Smith is found dead.)

'The water threatened to rise over the levee.'

(One tribe's pathetic fallacy is another tribe's idiom.)

Robert Paul

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