Monday, May 27, 2013

Then: the meaning changes

A student wrote to me asking about the meaning and placement of then in this sentence.
The product is then designed with this target price in mind.
As I was explaining that then could be resultative (meaning something like "so that" or "in that case") or simply temporal (meaning roughly "next" or "after that"). I also pointed out that it could occur initially, medially (in a number of places), or finally:
1 The product is 2 designed with this target price in mind 3.
Then, it occurred to me that position 1 could only be interpreted as being the temporal meaning, position 2 was ambiguous, and position 3 strongly suggests the resultative meaning.

Is it just me?


Warsaw Will said...

For me (BrE for what it's worth):
Position 1 would most likely be temporal but could also be resultative if spoken in a questioning tone or used with a question mark at the end (equivalent to "so").
Position 2 for me is temporal only
Position 3 would be resultative only.

Brett Reynolds said...

Good to know I'm not the only one. Were you aware of this position effect? I certainly wasn't.

Emil Klein said...

Isn't this just the old comma rule again? "Lets eat grandma" versus "Lets eat, grandma" ;) ? I am a bit confused :b

Brett Reynolds said...

Sorry, Emil, I don't see how it's related.