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    #31

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post

    I think of it as a language.
    But it's not a separate language from, say, British English. That makes it a (national) dialect, itself with many subdialects.
    A language is a dialect with an army and navy, so they say.

    Google provides results like "dialects such as American English" from world-class linguists from the US, such as Richard Kayne.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Which idea are you grappling with?:

    A: The choice of "can" vesus "could" depends on context.
    B: The choice depends on general versus specific.


    I am contemplating how "can do worse than V" differs from "could do worse than V." The differences between "can" and "could" are well established, but when they are couched in " ___ do worse than V" (in the relevant sense), things get murky. The meaning of an expression is not always the sum of its parts.

    Only speakers who use "can do worse than V", or who can consult speakers that do in the first place, can verify whether "can do worse than V" is limited to describing general possibility. Such a requirement is necessary for the study of any dialect- or idiolect-specific phenomenon. For example, I could provide an account of how I think a particular expression is used in the Shandong variety of Mandarin, based on the meanings of its components in the standard variety. But such an account could not be taken as reliable, because I don't speak that dialect or have the opportunity to consult those who speak it.



    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Or are you simply saying this?:

    C: "Can" is always wrong.

    I might be able to share some examples that illustrate A, but I don't have anything useful to say about B (I'm not qualified) or C (I simply disagree).
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 25-May-2020 at 05:02.

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #32

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    . . . Only speakers who use "can do worse than V". . . can verify whether "can do worse than V" is limited to describing general possibility. . . .
    As I said above, I can't help you there. I use both. What that has to do with general possibility I'll leave to people who think about such things.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 25-May-2020 at 21:38.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #33

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    As I said above, I can't help you there. I use both. What that has to do with general possibility I'll leave to people who think about such things.
    Is there a scenario where you'd use one but not the other?

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    #34

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    Is there a scenario where you'd use one but not the other?
    I can't think of anything that speaks to your question about "limiting to a general possibility." Let's see if someone here who knows more about grammar can help you.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #35

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    But you are obviously qualified to share insight on this issue, since you speak a dialect or idiolect that employs "You can do worse than V."

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    #36

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by raymondaliasapollyon View Post
    But you are obviously qualified to share insight on this issue, since you speak a dialect or idiolect that employs "You can do worse than V."
    What makes you think this has anything to do with dialect or idiolect?

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    #37

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    What makes you think this has anything to do with dialect or idiolect?
    If a person uses both "You can do worse than V" and "You could do worse than V," while another uses only "You could do worse than V," what can the difference be attributed to other than idiolectal/dialectal difference?

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    #38

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    The most obvious answer is semantic difference.

    But if you mean to compare the two forms as used in identical ways, then there are still several possibilities. It could be that an error was made, for instance.

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    #39

    Re: You can do worse than ...

    Lexico-semantic differences in expressions could be dialectal or idiolectal, as could syntactic, morphological, etc. differences.
    Last edited by raymondaliasapollyon; 08-Jun-2020 at 03:01.

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