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Thread: but

  1. #1
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default but

    How come "but" can mean not only "however" but also "only"??

    They are semantically totally different, you know...

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    It's a flexible little word.

  3. #3
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    It's a flexible little word.
    Why "flexible" that way? "However" vs. "only"...How are they related to each other??

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    Why "flexible" that way? "However" vs. "only"...How are they related to each other??
    As an adverb, but (meaning, nothing more than) is synonymous with only:

    EX: He was only/but a child"
    EX: Hopes that last but/only a moment

    Note their origin in Old English (OE), but (adv.) unless, without, outside (of); only (adv.) unique, solitary. There's a semantic tie between outside (of) and solitary .

    As a conjunction, but was not used as a conjunction in OE. Today, but (meaning with the exception that) is synonymous with however. Both mark an opposition in passing from one thought to another; possible tie: outside of the fact that...

    EX: This is not winter, but it is almost as cold.
    EX: This is not winter; it is, however, almost as cold

    Usage: but marks the opposition with a medium degree of strength. however is weaker, and throws the opposition into the background. (still is stronger than but, and marks the opposition more emphatically.)

    Source

  5. #5
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default

    Thanks. But I know the usage.

    I'm interested in the deriviation. How does a single word "but" has two meanings which don't seem to be related to each other?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    Thanks. But I know the usage.

    I'm interested in the deriviation. How does a single word "but" have two meanings which don't seem to be related to each other?
    Derivation? I don't understand what you mean by 'derivation'.
    According to the previous post, the difference in meaning between the two but's has to do with function: one is an adverb, the other a conjunction. The similarity in meaning between but/only and but/however has to do with semantic extension: but means, outside (of)/not inside ~ unique ~ the exception. As an exception it's also an opposition; only means, unique, solitary, sole; however expresses an opposition.

  7. #7
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    OK. I understand. Thanks, Cas. :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    OK. I understand. Thanks, Cas. :)
    Really? Because I was tired when I wrote it. Sorry.

  9. #9
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    OK. I understand. Thanks, Cas. :)
    Really? Because I was tired when I wrote it. Sorry.
    Yes, really. Thanks. :)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taka
    Yes, really. Thanks. :)
    :D

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