Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Just because I don't understand "just because" clauses doesn't mean I don't understand how to use "just because" clauses!

I've been thinking about "just because" clauses recently. Why? Just because, that's why. No, don't get up and leave. I'll tell you why. Just because I don't know much about "just because" clauses doesn't mean that I don't think they're important. I do think they're important. I want to know how to explain them so that I can tell my two children how to use them.

Among other reasons . . .


At 9:51 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Interesting question. I suppose one could teach it as a verbal pattern:

(1) just because [clause] doesn't mean (that) [clause]
(2) just because [clause], that doesn't mean (that) [clause]

Note that pattern (1) treats "just because" as introducing a noun clause, whereas in (2), "just because" is simply introducing the subordinate-clause part of a complex sentence.

That doesn't answer the question of how to explain the meaning of "just because," though, nor does it explain when to use the pattern. Maybe the "just" is a note of dismissiveness in reply to something someone has said or in response to something observed and deemed unworthy or insufficient.

Just because you're sitting on the world's fastest horse doesn't mean you'll get this parcel to Sacramento in time.

The above sentence implies a pessimistic evaluation of the horse: even that horse doesn't have much of a chance of making the Sacramento run in time.

What if we try rewriting the sentence to figure out the shape of the pattern's semantic field? Some possibilities:

You might be on the world's fastest horse, but you're still not gonna get this parcel to Sacramento in time.

The simple fact that you're on the world's fastest horse doesn't mean you'll get this parcel to Sacramento in time.

Even though you're sitting on the world's fastest horse, that doesn't mean you'll get this parcel to Sacramento in time.

Does that help us understand the meaning and role of "just because" in the pattern? Maybe "just because" is a scornful form of "even though." It also occurs to me that the "doesn't mean" part of the pattern is crucial for helping to convey that scorn.

There are many hard-to-explain locutions in English—hard for me to explain, anyway. Another good one is "may as well," which I use to express emotions ranging from resignation to a sort of grim pragmatism rooted in pessimism. "May as well" is hard to explain to EFL students.

Bah. This painting's going nowhere. I may as well start over.
Grim pragmatism:
The jungle's dangerous. You may as well take your gun.

Just some disjointed thoughts. Good luck figuring out how to explain "just because" to your critters.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin. Here's a paper that also might help:

Just-Because Clauses.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:29 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Good Lord, that's a detailed examination.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I know. I've yet to finish it.

Jeffery Hodges

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