View Single Post
Old Aug 4th 2010, 01:26 PM
WFCY's Avatar
WFCY WFCY is offline
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 487
Default Re: Literal isn’t Lazy

Originally Posted by Margot View Post
I ask again, if YOU were telling ME about the astronaut and the telescope, would you choose to be ambiguous? I ask because, unlike your sun, bat, and stomach analogy, you and I speak the same language, and know the rules of said language.

I'm not asking you to direct, motivate, and manipulate your astronaut and telescope, I am asking you to tell me exactly what happened.
Part of doing science is asking the right questions, through certain observations about the phenomena that occur all around us.

When I said:

Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
doesn't work that way.

"I saw an astronaut with a telescope"

did I see him with my telescope, or did I see him carrying one?

No answer to that, because words don't react and produce a definitive result like chemicals do. Your metaphor fails, too bad.
My point was, the use of language does not behave in ways that chemicals do, it is a direct response to your metaphor:

Originally Posted by Margot
Think of your linguistic brain as an Erlenmeyer flask (they're the ones that taper in). You can put in all sorts of chemicals, and they mix all different ways. By "chemicals" I mean words. You're making sentences. Outside of your flask your sodium, hydrogen, cobalt, zinc are all just elements: "I" "company "run" "a." You have to mix them together in order for me to understand what you're trying to make. Sure, it's caustic, but now I get it.
What I just did was I "put in" some words, in a certain order, and demonstrated to you that the "mix" does not produce a "caustic", causal-effect, or any kind of definitive result, unlike chemical reactions. In fact, there is no "understanding" reached by that particular use of language- and there are infinitely many such examples, all accross different subdomains of lingustics from semantics to phonetics. Language use does not bear any resemblemce to any scientific method, mechanism, hypothesis, or theory in general. So your analogy fails. That was my point. Not asking you which one it is, because I know already that there is no answer.

The correct question to ask, for a linguist, or a scientist in general, is: "what kind of framework of analysis can we apply to natural language such that we can distinguish syntactic ambiguities of this type (and perhaps others for boarder empirical coverage) and explain under what circumstances we get one reading, and what other circumstances we get another; What does this framework look like?". The question: "it's up to you, what do you want?" is not a scientific question, nor about a scientific subject ("what I want"). But that appears to be what you're interested in, which proves that on this very subject we are discussion, you are not a scientist and are in no position to make claims about "language (use) is science". "I know you won't like it"-- but it simply isn't.
"Déjeme decirle, a riesgo de parecer ridículo, que el revolucionario verdadero está guiado por grandes sentimientos de amor. Es imposible pensar en un revolucionario auténtico sin esta cualidad."

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Last edited by WFCY; Aug 4th 2010 at 01:41 PM.
Reply With Quote