"As Well."

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue May 8 18:31:44 UTC 2007

On May 3, 2007, at 8:32 PM, James Harbeck wrote:

> ... Some people seem allergic
> to using "also" or "too" and use "as well" everywhere "also" or "too"
> would work at least as well.

well, different people make different stylistic choices.  you seem to
be assuming that "also" and "too" are the 'right' choices to make,
but that some people (incomprehensibly) choose to use another
variant.  instead, people make their choices based on what they hear,
from whom, in what contexts.  so if you're canadian, you'll be likely
to treat sentence-initial "as well" as just one of the variants
available for your use, with no special stylistic value associated
with it.

but your criticism seems to be levelled at *all* the uses of "as
well" (vs. "too" and "also").  this i find puzzling, since the
sentence-final focus particle "as well" is entirely standard.  (over
70 occurrences in the NYT during the past month, many of them in
serious reporting.)

> This is, not surprisingly, especially
> common among businesspeople and others who want their writing to
> sound more important.

in what way does final "as well" 'sound more important' than "too" or
"also"?  maybe you have this feeling, but i don't, and i don't see
any of the usageists complaining about it.

the three variants are prosodically different -- "too" is
monosyllabic and relatively 'light', "also" disyllabic with initial
accent, "as well" disyllabic with final accent, so it might be felt
to be stronger or more emphatic -- and that might make or or another
of them attractive in certain contexts.

> It produces problematic ambiguities from time
> to time, of course.

sentence-initial "as well" doesn't produce potential ambiguities.
it's set off by intonation (or, in writing, a comma) and pretty much
has to be understood as a discourse-linking sentence adverbial.

now, sentence-final "as well" can produce potential ambiguities,
according to which element in the preceding sentence is focused on.
but the all the final focus particles, "also" and "too" included, can
produce such ambiguities:

Roger saw Kim.  Sue saw Kim as well/too/also.  [focus on subject "Sue"]
Sue saw Roger.  Sue saw Kim as well/too/also. [focus on object "Kim"]

>> ... 2.  sentence-initial discourse linker: As well, there are the
>> children to consider 'Also, there are the children to consider'.
>> disparaged by some, but apparently ok in canada.
> OK? Oh yes. Very much OK. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a
> majority of Canadians would find "as well" more formal and perhaps
> even more correct in that position than "also"

entirely possible.  it's a hypothesis that could be investigated, but
as usual, that investigation is not particularly easy to do.  (just
asking people their opinions really won't do, but something like a
magnitude estimate task might give useful results.)


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