Monday, August 13, 2012

Department of Facepalm

Ow.  It hurts:
Things I like:  I love language.  I love reading, the sound of words and foreign languages.  I regard myself as fortunate to be a native English speaker because the language allows us to use different sentences to describe the same thought but convey entirely different meanings.
I'll be kind and not tell you who said that. (Nobody you know.)


Eugene said...

Please tell us who wrote that. I really want to read more. I'd like to be able to utter two sentences that express the same thought and yet convey two different meanings, but I can't quite understand what that means.

It's Zen, right?

I can convey two meanings with one sentence: 'He sat by the bank, crying.' Or, 'The boy saw the man with the telescope.'

I encode one thought in two sentences: 'I took the documents to our attorney.' and 'I delivered the papers to our lawyer.'

But I can't make two sentences convey one thought and two meanings simultaneously. Help!

If English can do it, I'm confident that other languages can as well. That's how you know you're proficient in a second language - when you can express utterly baffling ideas - or no idea at all - in impressive-sounding ambiguities.

Monica said...

Well, Eugene, I still won't tell you who the person was or where I read it, but I will tell you a salient fact: this person is about to graduate from law school! I think that tells us a lot.

Anonymous said...

I assume the person who wrote it meant, by "thought," "truth-functional content," and by "meaning," "connotation."

I thought the objection to the passage was just the assumption it seems to make that only English is capable of expressing different connotations with expressions that nevertheless express the same truth-functional content.

Eugene said...

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, you have listened to two different sentences, yet no doubt you've arrived at one thought. However, that thought could have two different meanings, yet the law requires you to choose between those meanings, and a man's freedom hangs in the balance...