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It has been pointed out to me that the sentence, "Kain, that doesn't stop you always.", meaning "That hasn't stopped you in the past", is gramatically incorrect.

After some analysis I still believe that it is correct. There are many alternatives - for example "Kain, that hasn't stopped you in the past." or "Kain, that never seems to stop you." - but I wonder if the community could confirm if the sencentce in question violate any grammar rules.

The context is that K stated that he hasn't done X becasue of a reason A and my reply was meant to be a humorous way to point out that the reason A wasn't enough to stop K doing X in the past.


Extra clarification:

  • Kain: I didn't go a run because it rained.
  • Tymek: That doesn't stop you always. It rained all last week and you went for a run twice. I think there is a different reason why you didn't go.
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    What does it mean? That something always doesn't stop him or that it doesn't always stop him?
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:00
  • I've added a clarification.
    – tmaj
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:05
  • So, it means never?
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:08
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    "That never stopped you before" is clearer and idiomatic to Native speakers Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 4:39
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    Adverb placement in a sentence is fairly but not totally free. "Kain, that has stopped you never" is unacceptable. "Kain, that has stopped you always" is very dubious, though adding the frequency adverb as an afterthought after an ellipsis adds licence. Adding the negativiser further complicates the issue. I'd take "Kain, that doesn't stop you always" as an idiomatic variant of "Kain, that doesn't always stop you." The "Kain, that never stops you" reading is unavailable. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 11:44

1 Answer 1

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“Kain that doesn’t stop you always.”

As mentioned in the comments, this sentence is ambiguous and can mean two things:

  1. It doesn't always stop him
  2. It always doesn’t stop him
    (compare with, It always never rains! and Why do you always never shut up?)

ANSWER:

My analysis will be based on the second. According to CGEL “always” in the OP’s sentence is a speech act evaluative adjunct acting as a supplement to the clause Kain that doesn’t stop you as its anchor. Adjuncts in CGEL can fall under more than one category. In the right context and with an optional comma, “Kain that doesn’t stop you, always” can be understood as “Kain that never stops you”. This is the function of the speech act. Unlike in speech, text does not take into account utterance intonation (pitch levels etc.). Imagine always being said with a rising pitch “Kain that doesn’t stop you, ↑ always”, and it is easier to deduce the second meaning with semantics.

Chapter 8: The Adjuncts

Types of adjunct

xxiv) Fortunately, we got there on time. [evaluation §17]
xxv) Frankly, I’m disappointed [speech act-related: §18]

p. 666

[3] iia. He returned, fortunately. [evaluation]

fortunately in [3 iia] ... is a supplement with the clause, he returned as its ‘anchor’.

p. 667

§17 Evaluative adjuncts

[3]
i) Amazingly he escaped with only a scratch. [evaluative adjunct]

ii) He escaped with only a scratch, which was amazing. [supplementary relative]

In [ii] the adjective is predicative in a supplementary relative clause whose subject has the residue as antecedent. Construction [ii] is much closer in meaning to [i]...
In [ii] the “amazing” feature is backgrounded relative to the residue, as it is in [i], though it still differs by virtue of being expressed predicatively rather than adverbially.

p. 771-772

Speech act adjuncts

ib) Frankly, it was a waste of time

iib) Briefly, your expenditure must not exceed your income.

iiib) Confidentially, Rus is thinking of resigning.

In the [b] examples, by contrast, the adverb describes my speech act: [ib] can be glossed approximately as “I tell you frankly that it was a waste of time”, and analogously for [iib/iiib]. But the adjunct in [b] is not part of the expression of a proposition and hence doesn’t introduce a truth condition: if I’m not in fact speaking frankly, [ib] would be infelicitous, but not actually false.

p. 773

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    Your appeal to intonation as a way for the speaker to convey the OP's meaning suggests that the speaker added "always" as an afterthought. Now afterthoughts are common in speech, I grant you. But the OP is asking about a sentence. This means the OP has already thought it through from beginning to end. There is no afterthought involved. So I don't see any good reason to stick "always" at the end.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 10:36
  • @Rosie F An adjunct can be seen analogous to an “afterthought” but it is really not. Adjuncts are not necessary to make a sentence whole or grammatically complete; they just “supplement” additional information for a certain function. Almost every utterance has an adjunct. But there is no prior thinking involved. We don’t choose when to add an adjunct or not, it comes natural to us. It may seem intentional but this is an unconscious process so we are not aware that we do this.
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 11:22
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    Now afterthoughts are common in speech, I grant you. But the OP is asking about a sentence. This means the OP has already thought it through from beginning to end.’ — In fact, no the OP said this to a friend first (read the first line, paragraph 1): ‘It has been pointed out to me’, and only thought about it after. Not from beginning till end.
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 11:22
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    @EdwinAshworth you’re confusing grammatical parts of speech (PoS) “adverb” and grammatical function “adjunct” here. CGEL does not: “ ....In the [b] examples, by contrast, the adverb describes my speech act...” p. 773 // “...In [ii] the “amazing” feature is backgrounded relative to the residue, as it is in [i], though it still differs by virtue of being expressed predicatively rather than adverbially. (p. 771-772)
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 14:39
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    And if you read further, she writes “This means that you will see many intelligent people saying ridiculous things such as, in the sentence: ‘I go to the gym every day’; the phrase every day is an adverb”. Note, the word ‘ridiculous people’. It is the same here “always” is not a ‘prototypical adverb’ here as originally claimed, it’s an adjunct/adverbial/pragmatic marker/evaluative marker, or whatever you want to call it, as in Araucaria’s word they have a “special function in the sentence”.
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 19:43

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