Collocation, interpretation and explanation: the case of just any

Patrick J. Duffley*, Pierre Larrivée

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article discusses the question of compositionality by examining whether the indiscriminacy reading of the collocation of just with any can be shown to be a consequence of the schematic meaning-potential of each of these two items. A comparison of justwith other restrictive focus particles allows its schematic meaning to be defined as that of goodness of fit. Any is defined as representing an indefinite member of a set as extractable from the set in exactly the same way as each of the other members thereof. The collocation just any often gives rise to a scalar reading oriented towards the lowest value on the scale due to the fact that focus on the unconstrained extractability of a random indefinite item brings into consideration even marginal cases and the latter tend to be interpreted as situated on the lower end of the scale. The attention to low-end values also explains why just any is regularly found with the adjective old, the prepositional phrase at all and various devaluating expressions. It is concluded that the meanings of the component parts of this collocation do indeed account for the meaning of the whole, and that an appropriate methodology allows identification of linguistic meanings and their interrelations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)24-40
    Number of pages17
    Issue number1
    Early online date2 Dec 2011
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


    • collocation
    • focus particle
    • free-choice item
    • polarity
    • quantifier
    • scalar particle


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