What is the grammar of thankyouverymuch?

 tl;dr – From a functional perspective, thankyouverymuch is an evaluative adjunct (a type of stance adjunct) according to Downing & Locke because it is “attitudinal, reflecting the subjective or objective attitude of the speaker towards the content and sometimes also towards the addressee” (2nd ed.; pp. 73-74, 234). According to the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English, thankyouverymuch is an attitude stance adverbial, which “convey an evaluation, or assessment of expectations” of the speaker’s attitude toward the proposition (p. 384).

From a discourse perspective, Blommaert (2005) would probably see thankyouverymuch as a performative element and a way for speakers to mark an orientation to what they have just said. But I’m not great at discourse analysis, so please tell me more in the comments.

Finally, syntactically, thankyouverymuch is a finite clause.

Read more to see a deeper analysis

The phrase thankyouverymuch is used in informal writing. It is spelled without spaces between the words to indicate either (1) how the phrase is said in spoken interactions, or (2) that the phrase is not being used literally as an expression of gratitude. It always reminds me of Andy Kaufman’s way of saying it, but that’s probably because of the Jim Carrey movie that came out when I was at an impressionable age (Tony Clifton lives!). And the other day I noticed that the first sentence of the first Harry Potter book ends with this phrase (with spaces though).

harry_potter_thankyouverymuch

Anyways, when used in writing, thankyouverymuch means something like “What I just said is meant to be taken as obvious and I will not be discussing it any further” or “This is my solution to a certain problem and I do not need any validation from you”. It’s a sarcastic line said to no one in particular, but rather used to frame what comes before it in an assertive way. Here are some examples from Twitter:

Pet peeve: I am trying to get to the footer of a website because I want to check out the links down there BUT THE WEBSITE WON’T LET ME! I do *not* need an endless scroll thankyouverymuch.

 

 

 

 

I’m taking a long weekend, thankyouverymuch

 

 

 

They were offering makeup time at my work for people who missed days due to the snow. But honestly, I only missed 1.5 days total last week and I was here all this week while a ton of people were out. So I think I’ve earned a three-day weekend, thankyouverymuch. 🙂

 

 

My uterus feels like it’s being strip mined and my ovaries jackhammered so yes I will have an entire package of Oreos for breakfast thankyouverymuch.

 

In terms of grammar, thankyouverymuch is a finite clause – or it would be if the spaces were there between the words. When it gets crunched together, it seems to work much more like an adverb or a discourse marker. As a word class, adverbs are notoriously nebulous, but the class includes words that are used to comment on what was said: how a certain piece of speech should be taken or how the speaker feels about what they are saying. Let’s look at some grammars.

English Grammar: A University Course (Downing & Locke 2006)

Since their book is a functional grammar, Downing & Locke don’t really get into discourse analysis. They use the term “continuative theme” for a discourse marker, but they say that although continuative themes “have various functions as markers of attention, response, request, state of knowledge, surprise and hesitation, among others,” they “signal acknowledgements by speakers and transitions from one speaker to another or a move to another point in spoken discourse” (2nd ed., p. 234). It seems obvious that thankyouverymuch functions as a marker, but I’m more hesitant to say that is signals a transition, unless we say that it somehow signals that the speaker is done speaking (about the topic that thankyouverymuch modifies).

On the other hand, D&L recognize what they call “adjuncts of stance” and give as examples surely, certainly and apparently (2nd ed., p. 234). They subdivide the stance adjuncts but the one that’s relevant for us is called “evaluative adjuncts,” which D&L say “are attitudinal, reflecting the subjective or objective attitude of the speaker towards the content and sometimes also towards the addressee” (p. 73). You can see how thankyouverymuch does exactly that. Additionally, D&L say that stance adjuncts can be realized by finite clauses, which I would say thankyouverymuch is.

Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English

Longman largely agrees with D&L, although they would probably classify it as a stance adverbial, and more specifically an “attitude adverbial” (p. 384). They say:

“Attitude adverbials tell the speaker’s attitude toward the proposition. Typically they convey an evaluation, or assessment of expectations.”

The examples they give include fortunately, most surprising of all, hopefully, as you might expect, and naturally.

They do say that these kinds of adverbials can often be restated with that-clauses and adjectives describing attitudes (so that Fortunately, during my first few months here… >> It is fortunate that in my first few months here…). This doesn’t work for thankyouverymuch, but I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule. This rule doesn’t work for other attitude adverbials that they give; of course being one example.

Longman also says that the division between stance adverbials and discourse markers is not always clear (p. 386). The example they give here is like in:

She like said that they would.

And finally, Longman also says that discourse markers usually occur at the beginnings of turns or utterances (p. 450), but I’m not so sure about this.

For the relevant parts in the full Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English, see section 10.3 Stance adverbials.

Discourse (Blommaert 2005)

Blommaert would probably see thankyouverymuch as a way for a speaker to mark an affective orientation to what was said before it.

The relation between epistemic and affective modes is a complex one. Biber and Finegan (1989: 93) coined the term ‘stance’ for complexes of lexical and grammatical expressions of attitudes, feelings, judgements, or commitment concerning the propositional content of a message, and demonstrated that different ‘stances’ could be distinguished ranging from ‘emphatic expression of affect’ to a ‘faceless stance’. Labov (1984: 43-44) defined ‘intensity’ as ‘the emotional expression of social orientation toward the linguistic proposition: the commitment of the self to the proposition.’ And Haviland emphasized the symbolic relationship between epistemic and affective modes: ‘contending (or hedging or denying) the truth may be inherently argumentative and hence, by its very nature, affective’ (1989: 59). So what we are looking for is mixtures of expression, in which knowledge is produced as well as orientations to knowledge expressed by means of affective, emotional stances. (p. 88)

In a discussion of a person’s use of the hedge “you know,” Blommaert says that it should be considered a feature of performance and (using Labov’s term) should be seen as a marker of different “intensity” or different orientation by the speaker to what they said.

 

As I mentioned above, discourse analysis is not my strongest suit, so please leave a comment on this post if there’s something you think I should add.

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Author: Joe McVeigh

I'm a linguist who researches email marketing. I also teach at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. I write about language and linguistics on my blog, ...And Read All Over, and I write about language and marketing on my other blog, Email and Linguistics.

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