Know it all

Trump recently tweeted something that was linguistically interesting (shocking, right?). Tweeting about James Comey, he wrote:

"Comey knew it all, and much more!"

This is the kind of thing that would be starred as an infelicitious utterance in an intro to pragmatics. The reason is what we call "scalar implicature." If I said:

"Comey knew some of it."

That carries the implicature that he, well, knows some. I can cancel that implicature by stating:

" fact, he knew all of it!"

The same goes with everything less than allFor instance:

"Comey knew most if it. In fact, he knew all of it."

However, because all inherently means "everything" it makes no sense to say he knew all "and more".

It's the kind of thing you might see as an insult with negation:

"Comey knew nothing. In fact, he knew less than nothing."

But it still doesn't quite make sense in that sentence frame:

*"Comey knew none (of it), and much less!"

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, since it's not an off the cuff remark that can be attributed to a speech production error or brainfart. Perhaps it's further evidence that people tend to "tweet how they speak."




©Taylor Jones 2018

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