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I am wondering whether the conjunction though makes sense in the following.

It is regarded as a symbol of respect and prestige to have a handcrafted coffin in this country though only the heads of households who have achieved some level of success may have one.

The context is a discussion of handcrafted coffins in a country.

  • What objection might be made against "though"? It is used to introduce a qualification to a thought. – Jeff Morrow Dec 3 '17 at 15:01
  • What relation holds between the two clauses if "though" is used? – Apollyon Dec 3 '17 at 15:09
  • Consider: It is a symbol of prestige to own a high-end Mercedes though few, if any, manual laborers own one. That is a misuse of though on a semantic level. The clause introduced by though introduces a contrary idea which, at first glance, does not flow from the initial clause. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 3 '17 at 15:11
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo You are saying the original sentence doesn't make sense, because "because" should be used instead, aren't you? – Apollyon Dec 3 '17 at 15:15
  • because works, sort of; with because, the sentence defines a prestige item as one that only a few successful heads of households would have, rather than one which only a few would be able to afford. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 3 '17 at 15:17
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When two clauses are joined by though the second clause must counter the idea expressed in the first clause with a predicate that would not normally flow from that of the first clause.

The place has nothing but rain in the summer and the streets are dangerous at night though tourists flock there for some reason. good

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is a very expensive car though few can afford it. tautological (no contrast)

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is a prestige vehicle though few can afford it. tautological (no contrast)

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is very reliable because it uses only the finest parts and components available which are rarely, if ever, used in average cars, though few can afford it. perfectly grammatical but semantically marginal because the simple contrast of "reliability" and "affordability" is muddied by the other statements about high cost

We cannot fix the LuxusMobile example by saying because instead of though.

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is a very expensive car because few can afford it.

There, cause and effect are backwards.

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is a luxury car that many desire but few can afford.

The Z-Class LuxusMobile is a luxury car that many desire though few can afford.

P.S. OP has submitted another sentence in the comments below, which I include here:

"It is regarded as a great honor and a sign of respect to have a handcrafted coffin in this country though only the heads of households who have achieved some level of success may be buried in one."

and has clarified that "having" a coffin is the same as owning one and being buried in it; and "may" means "are permitted".

The sentence then has this basic structure:

"Fancy coffins are considered an honor though the honor is one few people are permitted to receive".

The second clause introduced by though is thus a kind of qualification.

People consider the fancy coffin an honor for the deceased and a sign of (their?) respect (for the deceased) but they are not permitted to bestow that honor on and show that respect to just anyone.

That qualification has nothing to do with the general opinion of the fancy coffin and its symbolism per se. Rather, it is a restriction placed on those who wish to use the symbol. The clause introduced by though is thus more a supplement or an adjunct than it is integral.

People regard a handcrafted coffin as a way to honor and show respect to the dead—though only a head of household who had reached a certain level of success is permitted to be buried in such a coffin.

  • Do you think the sentence, which is slightly different from my OP sentence, is natural? "It is regarded as a great honor and a sign of respect to have a handcrafted coffin in this country though only the heads of households who have achieved some level of success may be buried in one." – Apollyon Dec 3 '17 at 22:34
  • Or is it tautological? – Apollyon Dec 3 '17 at 22:35
  • Does "having" a coffin mean the same thing as being "buried" in a coffin? Or is there a hand-crafted coffin rental business, where the hand-crafted coffin is just for show, temporarily? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 3 '17 at 22:39
  • Please assume there's no difference between being buried in a coffin and owning one. Also, it's not a rental business. – Apollyon Dec 3 '17 at 22:41
  • OK, just making sure of the nature of the contrast. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 3 '17 at 22:41
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To compare or to contrast, commonality or distinction -- our choice of preposition depends on which relationship we wish to establish. 

 

We use "as" to compare, to establish a relationship based on commonality. 

It is regarded as a symbol of respect and prestige to have a handcrafted coffin in this country, as only the heads of households who have achieved some level of success may have one. 

In this version of the sentence, there is a commonality between "respect and prestige" and "some level of success".  It would be reasonable to assume that respect and prestige are the natural result of being a successful head of a household.  It would also be reasonable to assume that people who don't head a household won't get a handcrafted coffin, even when they otherwise have enough respect and prestige to deserve one. 

 

We use "though" to contrast, to establish a relationship based on distinction. 

It is regarded as a symbol of respect and prestige to have a handcrafted coffin in this country, though only the heads of households who have achieved some level of success may have one. 

Here, the most likely contrast is between symbolic and literal representations.  On the one hand, the coffin symbolizes respect and prestige.  On the other, the coffin literally represents household success, probably through household wealth. 

The contrast of "though" establishes that the respect and prestige so symbolized has little to do with success as a head of a household.  It's reasonable to assume that there are successful heads of households who get handcrafted coffins despite having never having earned the symbolized respect and prestige.  It's still reasonable to assume that people who don't head a household won't get a handcrafted coffin, regardless. 

 

Both versions are grammatically correct and semantically sound.  The relationship between these two referents has both elements of commonality and elements of distinction.  In this context, an author must choose whether the commonality or the distinction is more relevant.  That choice leads directly to the choice of preposition. 

"Though" makes sense.  "As" would also make sense, though it would make a different sense, establishing a different relationship and different meanings for the related items. 

  • Do you think "whereas" works? – Apollyon Dec 5 '17 at 14:14
  • "Whereas" has two common uses. In one, it does mark a contrast. In the other, it merely marks circumstances, usually contributory circumstances. "Whereas" would imply that success as a head of a household contributes to the respect and prestige that the coffin symbolizes. Again, choosing a different preposition establishes a different relationship. Taken out of context, this relationship is also sensible. Without seeing the full context, I have no way of knowing whether this sensible relationship is appropriate. – Gary Botnovcan Dec 5 '17 at 15:57

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