"fact" again again

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Jul 15 17:12:23 UTC 2008

It appears that my blackberry messages do not do well with some computers.
Worse, I left out a part of my example. Here is what I was TRYING to say:

Sentence at issue:   "... had not ruled out the fact that the ads were fake."
Lighter solution: "fact" means 'possibility'
Butters solution: "fact" means 'fact'; sentence at issue is a syntactic
variant of "... had not ruled out [it being] fact that the ads were fake."

I characterized the sentence at issue as "just some kind of awkward syntactic
blend." Maybe it would be better to think of it as just a deletion (as
suggested above). I agree that the sentence that I suggested as a possible source
for a "blend" (" ... police had not ruled out [it being] the prince [as the one]
that had spiked the punch") doesn't quite work (the deletion of "it being" is
awkward here, too). However, there are ways of indicating factivity without
directly using the words "the fact" (e.g., "... police had not ruled out that
the ads were fake").

At any rate, it seems much more likely to me that the authors of the sentence
at issue were scrambling thier syntax in attempting to overtly mark factivity
than that they were generating an entirely new meaning for the word "fact."
(Of course, as Elizabeth Traugott demonstrated long ago, changes in lexical
meaning for function words can eventually come about because of syntactic

The fact that the sentence before the deletion is not "ambiguous" whereas the
sentence at issue is not is just further indication that some sort of
"performance" error is at work here.

In a message dated 7/14/08 9:43:26 PM, thnidu at GMAIL.COM writes:

> The deletion isn't parallel, and your example can't be misunderstood in
> anything like the way the BBC sentence can.

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