A uniform analysis for concessive at least and optative at least

Patrick Georg Grosz


This paper discusses a particular type of optative constructions (which are constructions that express a wish without containing an overt lexical item that means wish): If-clauses in which optativity is apparently licensed by 'at least'. I propose that the connection between 'at least' and optativity is indirect and can be explained as follows. On the one hand, if-clauses generally have an optative reading; on the other hand, optative 'at least' is an instance of concessive 'at least', which conveys desirability and thus supports ('cues') an optative reading. I propose that, as a consequence, the licensing of optativity by 'at least' is a semantic conspiracy: I argue that there is a pragmatic preference for using optativity cues, which blocks optative readings in cue-less utterances.


optative; concessive; at least

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v21i0.2627

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