[Ads-l] _try to_ vs. _try and_

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 8 11:28:41 EST 2016


> On Nov 8, 2016, at 10:34 AM, Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM> wrote:
> 
> Arnold:
> 
>> 
>>    On 08 November 2016 at 14:19 "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
>> wrote:
>> 
>> 
>>> On Nov 8, 2016, at 5:18 AM, Robin Hamilton
>>> <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM> wrote:
>>> 
>>> ... Unfortunately, neither M-W, Burchfield, nor Arnold in his comments
>>> below clarify
>>> the question as to whether, as well as the obvious register-difference
>>> between
>>> the two phrasings, "try and" and "try to", there is *also* a semantic
>>> distinction.
>> 
>>> ... I use both, but I'm not certain as to whether the choice
>>> between them on my part is based on only socially contextual
>>> considerations, or
>>> whether there's a semantic nuance involved on occasion.
>> 
>>    i had hoped to jhave said this clearly: there is no difference in
>> truth-functional semantics, but there certainly is a difference in nuance
>> (classifiable as implicature or connotation), having to do with closeness vs.
>> looseness of association between trying and Ving.


Perhaps, if your intuitions are the same as mine, the pragmatic difference is brought out in the contrast between:

(1)  a. I'm going to try to solve the problem and I'm pretty sure I'll succeed.
       b. I'm going to try and solve the problem and I'm pretty sure I'll succeed. 
(2)  a. I'm going to try and solve the problem even though I'm pretty sure I won't succeed.
       b. #I'm going to try and solve the problem even though I'm pretty sure I won't succeed. 

Maybe (2b) isn't quite as odd as a # suggests, but it seems less likely than (1b) in this context.

LH
>> (this nuance will often not
>> be obvious or will be unimportant in context; that's the way of nuances).
>> 
> 
> To recap slightly, Merriam-Webster dismisses the idea of significant difference
> virtually out of hand; Burchfield, with a set of references to fuller
> discussions, ends up coming down on the side of "no discernable difference" too,
> but at least addresses the issue.  I'm unconvinced.
> 
> At least, I'm not convinced that the issue is as closed as M-W and (to a lesser
> degree) Burchfield suggest.  And you yourself in the above paragraph seem to
> agree that there is a difference, albeit not in "truth-functional semantics".
> Why that (I'm not being picky here, probably simple ignorance on my part)
> rather than simply "semantics"?  
> 
> Re-reading what you say above, I think we may, to a degree, be arguing over
> terminology here -- semantic difference vs.significant difference vs. nuance vs
> ... whatever.  Also whether we approach the issue in terms of lexis or syntax.
> Or the point where the two interact.
> 
>> 
>>    think of it this way: _try to_ V tends to treat trying and Ving as part of
>> a single act, while _try and_ V allows them to be seen as two separate but
>> crucially related acts, with Ving as the intended consequence of trying.
>> 
> 
> If I'm not misunderstanding you, what you're saying is that "trying to" and
> "trying and" exhibit syntactical difference, but this doesn't constitute a
> semantic difference?  I'd guess that there isn't room for argument that "trying
> to" can take part in certain constructions that "trying and" can't, and vice
> versa.  I'd go on to say that this in itself might constitute proof of a
> semantic difference (although there might be other evidence for difference as
> well), while you'd draw the opposite conclusion.  
> 
> Or am I completely misunderstanding the argument at this point?
> 
> 
> Robin    
> 
>> 
>> 
>>    arnold
>> 
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>> 
> 
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