What's it called? Indicating no exceptions to the rule

asked 2020-09-14 19:21:21 -0500

ThatSteinGuy gravatar image

In my study of an ancient language, I’m seeing certain phrasing that, in a prescription of proper behavior, means emphatically: “without exception!” My question is: Do linguists have a label for this phenomenon?

These cases arise in categorical negative polarity or conditional environments. The phrasing in question involves either marked word order, or a doubling of the indefinite-pronoun-like term. By using this more elaborate or unusual wording, it’s as if the speaker is saying, “This applies to everyone — including you!”

Below are 4 examples, which are my paraphrased renderings into English — a language where this kind of message is conveyed lexically rather than grammatically. To highlight the markedness involved, I pair each example with a simpler version of the utterance. On its face, the latter is equally categorical — yet somehow does not suffice.

  1. “Don’t tell anyone at all about this conversation, or you will die.” versus “Don’t tell anyone about this conversation.…”

  2. “Not a single solitary one of you shall act without my say-so.”
    versus “None of you shall act without my say-so.”

  3. Absolutely no one should bring a gift.” versus “No one should bring a gift.”

  4. “If anyone at all slaughters an ox in the camp…” versus “If anyone slaughters an ox in the camp…”

Presumably this phenomenon has been studied in English — but what is it called?

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