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#206272 - 06/28/12 10:53 AM grammatical sentences and nonsense
zmjezhd Offline
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In that other thread, I said what I thought grammar is and how it does not include orthography. In this thread I'd like to look at some perfectly grammatical sentences and how they mean or don't mean.

It was Chomsky, roughly five decades ago, who wrote the following:

1. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

It was an example of a nonsensical, but grammatical, sentence. It has a subject and a predicate. It has adjectives, a noun, a verb, and an adverb. These parts of speech are assembled in the normal manner. The problem with the sentence is one of meaning. Human beings being what they are have tried to create contexts within which the sentence might be said to have meaning, but I think you get the idea. This is why grammar (at least for generativists) does not include semantics, although parts of it are related to that field of study.

Chomsky was not the first to notice this disconnect between grammaticality and sense. Lewis Carroll and Edward Leary both carved out a small niche in literature in the 19th century exploiting this disconnect. Think of some of those poems, like Jabberwocky or Leary's limericks.

The next example comes from Bertrand Russell:

2. The current king of France is bald.

He came up with this to show how a perfectly grammatical sentence can be (logically) untrue. This sentence skirts dangerously close to literature. Entire books have been written where almost none of the sentences are true. We can still understand them, and their truth has nothing to do with grammar, orthography, style, or the author's intentions. Truth has to do with logic, and logic is not a part of grammar.

Now comes a novelist, E.M. Forster:

3a. The king died and then the queen died.
3b. The king died and then the queen died of a broken heart

Forster famously said that (3a) is merely a story, (3b) is a plot, because the latter not only has a causal connection, but also an emotional element. Although (3b) is the world's shortest novel, I have no way of even determining its veracity.

As for spelling and punctuation, I suppose it seems like a no-brainer to me that these two things have nothing to do with grammar that it is hard for me to conjure up a context in which they do. I think it may be because I have been exposed to texts that are older than two centuries. I am currently reading through Henslowe's Diary which was written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Early Modern English. It's main claim to fame is that it records some financial dealings with the companies that put on some of Shakespeare's plays. It is not a facsimile of the MS in the sense that the text has been printed in a modern typeface, but the spelling, punctuation, and abbreviations have been left as they are in the MS. There are hardly any sentences in this diary, but if you look at one of Shakespeare's quartos or the First Folio you will see some beautiful poetry, but the spelling and punctuation are nothing like we do them today. The orthography used in the First Folio probably isn't even Shakespeare's, but one or two of the typesetters who worked for the printer who published the book.
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#206273 - 06/28/12 11:08 AM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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An example of orthography not equaling grammar would be in the sentence:

Please keep you're hands off of my tray.

To claim that this is a grammatical error you would have to believe that the person who typed this sentence actually intended to type "Please keep you are hands off of my tray."

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#206278 - 06/28/12 04:35 PM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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As for spelling and punctuation, I suppose it seems like a no-brainer to me that these two things have nothing to do with grammar that it is hard for me to conjure up a context in which they do.
I like and understand your examples and explanations but I'll be darned if I understand what you mean here.

As for spelling and punctuation, I suppose it seems like a no-brainer (evident, simple) to me that these two things have nothing to do with grammar that it is hard for me to conjure up a context in which they do. ( I try, I try but.........it's literature to me)

I really would be happy with maybe one more tiny comma somwhere.

The king died and then the queen died. Happens all the time. frown

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#206284 - 06/29/12 12:01 PM Re:stuff and nonsense [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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I like and understand your examples and explanations but I'll be darned if I understand what you mean here.

Do you mean in the entire opening post of the thread or just the part that you quoted? I can see that I am not getting through to you. I don't think I can. Probably my fault. Ah, well.

I really would be happy with maybe one more tiny comma somwhere.

Go ahead. Make your day. Add as many commas as you think are needed. Of course, if you can figure out where the commas should go, you probably don't need them in the first place.
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#206287 - 06/29/12 07:00 PM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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No, it's not that. No need to make my day. I understand it till where you get to the spelling itch. It may be that you and people who think like you do not need punctuation. Or hardly any.

I only mentioned punctuation again because the sentence I quoted gave me troubles reading it. First I had to look up no-brainer, which if you do not know the word can have two meanings.
I checked if it meant 'dumb' (having no brains) but it proved to mean 'simple' (no brains needed). I run over the sentence a few times and now assume it means that it is hard for you to conjure up a context in which spelling and punctuation have to do with grammar. (is that right?)

Maybe an extra comma would not have been much help.

I like you examples although I do not see why
"2. The current King of France is bold" isn't logic, but that just a detail.

I need punctuation in written texts that are not poetry or literature. To me it's like a reinforcement of the structure.
You do not need it. Whether it is part of grammar I cannot say because I'm no linguist. No language expert. I have from my language education always accepted spelling and punctuation as belonging to grammar.

Maybe I'm wrong.

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#206288 - 06/29/12 08:41 PM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea
It may be that you and people who think like you do not need punctuation. Or hardly any.


Certainly not. Punctuation is important. I don't think it's important as some other people think it is, but I certainly don't think we don't need it.


Edited by gooofy (06/29/12 08:44 PM)

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#206294 - 06/30/12 12:01 PM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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I understand it till where you get to the spelling itch. It may be that you and people who think like you do not need punctuation. Or hardly any.

I shall repeat myself. Punctuation is important. So is spelling. Their importance does not make them a part of grammar. That's all I am saying.

I like you examples although I do not see why
"2. The current King of France is bold" isn't logic, but that just a detail.


LOL. That's cuz there's a typo.

2. The current King of France is bald.

Although, it does not change the fact that the sentence is logically false.
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#206296 - 07/01/12 06:16 AM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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laugh laugh _ laugh

Quote:
I like you examples although I do not see why
"2. The current King of France is bold" isn't logic, but that just a detail.
I see I did two typo's here. Hurray!

I hope your patience will hold, but why can't the current King of France be bald or bold? It is not true but what is unlogic about it?

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#206297 - 07/01/12 07:14 AM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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I was wondering the same thing about the logic of the sentence. Must is some specialized linguistics definition of logic.

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#206302 - 07/01/12 02:24 PM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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why can't the current King of France be bald or bold? It is not true but what is unlogic about it?

Well, in logic the sentence is neither true nor false, because there is no referent for "the current King of France". You can read up on it in this Wikipedia article. I also see that I misremembered Russell's example sentence; it is "the present King of France is bald". (Also, I think that Russell was making a teasing reference to an actual, but deceased, King of France, i.e., Charles II le Chauve (in English "Charles II the Bald"). He is not to be confused with Charles le Hardi or le Téméraire, duc de Bourgogne (Karel le Stoute in Dutch, Charles the Bold in English).
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#206303 - 07/01/12 02:26 PM Re: grough and nonsense [Re: Faldage]
zmjezhd Offline
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Must is some specialized linguistics definition of logic.

It's more of a philosophy of language thang. Russell, Frege, those logician guys ...
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#206309 - 07/02/12 01:10 PM Re: grough and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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When I write: The present King of France is bald, it is unlogical.

In the 9th century, a contempory of Charles the Bald could have said: "The present King of France is bald".

If I write a story about Charles II and his time and someone in the story says: - "The present King of France is bald"- how would the logician guys explain the difference 'logical-unlogical?



Edited by BranShea (07/02/12 05:32 PM)

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#206310 - 07/02/12 01:41 PM Re: grough and nonsense [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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If I write a story about Charles II and his time and someone in the story sais: - "The present King of France is bald"- how would the logician guys explain the difference 'logical-unlogical?

Well, if it's a story, instead of a history, they might say it meaningless. Not sure. Context is always important. I believe the problem goes away if France is a monarchy at the time of writing or uttering and the present King is bald.

I guess I posted my thread mainly because I've been thinking about how complicated language and communication are. I've never much been bothered by the "present King of France is bald" kind of paradox (enigma?), but there are / were people whose opinions I respect who are / were obsessed with it. And, my point about the "present King of France is bald" is that whatever its problem(s) may be, it has nothing to do with grammar. The sentence is perfectly grammatical. The problem may have to do with situational semantics or logic or pragmatics or who knows what.
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#206312 - 07/02/12 03:32 PM Re: grough and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
tsuwm Offline
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The present King of France is bald

could it be, possibly, that this statement is simply false?

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#206313 - 07/02/12 05:22 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: tsuwm]
zmjezhd Offline
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could it be, possibly, that this statement is simply false?

It could be, but if you read the article I linked to you'll see why other people don't think so.
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#206316 - 07/03/12 04:49 AM Re: groetsjemeu [Re: tsuwm]
BranShea Offline
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Of course it false. False and mean. Some mistress must have looked under his crown while he was sleeping and she told all the court: "The present King of France is bald".

Even worse, who knows what was under the perruques and wigs of all those kings and authorities through the wiggily centuries. History has shown what was under their skull, not what was on it.

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#206320 - 07/03/12 11:34 AM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: zmjezhd]
tsuwm Offline
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Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
could it be, possibly, that this statement is simply false?

It could be, but if you read the article I linked to you'll see why other people don't think so.


oh, I did; which seemed to [ahem] beg my question.


Edited by tsuwm (07/03/12 04:32 PM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#206322 - 07/03/12 02:15 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: tsuwm]
zmjezhd Offline
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oh, I did

I see. The part that cinched it for me was that logical true statements / propositions can be negated to make them false. So, if "the present King of France is bald" is false, then the inverse statement "the current King of France is not bald" should be true. Do you find the former false and the latter true? I don't.
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#206323 - 07/03/12 03:16 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
oh, I did

I see. The part that cinched it for me was that logical true statements / propositions can be negated to make them false. So, if "the present King of France is bald" is false, then the inverse statement "the current King of France is not bald" should be true. Do you find the former false and the latter true? I don't.





Or either the notion that the inverse must be true is itself false. And is "the current King of France is not bald" truly the inverse of "the current King of France is bald"? Remember, it's not the baldness of the current King of France that's true or false, it's the existence of the current King of France.

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#206324 - 07/03/12 04:02 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: Faldage]
zmjezhd Offline
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Remember, it's not the baldness of the current King of France that's true or false, it's the existence of the current King of France.

I disagree. "the present King of France" is a definite description, like "the first man on the moon" or "the winner of the Kentucky Derby". These terms may or may not have referents but how are they true or false in the same sense as a statement / proposition such as "all humans are mortal"? But, mayhaps, true and false mean something else to you ...
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#206325 - 07/03/12 05:07 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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Well, if you're going to look at it that way, the statement "the current King of France is bald", is neither true nor false but meaningless.

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#206326 - 07/03/12 05:22 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: Faldage]
BranShea Offline
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I think it's neither true nor false and if meaningless only because there is no context. It is a healthy sentence.

No, I take that back. It is true. Just so. It only lacks a context.


Edited by BranShea (07/03/12 05:35 PM)

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#206327 - 07/03/12 08:19 PM Re: groats and nonbeans [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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A sentence doesn't have to be either true or false. "This statement is false" is a good example. Another one is that famous "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

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#206328 - 07/04/12 12:42 AM Re: oats and beings [Re: Faldage]
zmjezhd Offline
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A sentence doesn't have to be either true or false. "This statement is false" is a good example. Another one is that famous "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

Yes. If only it weren't so easy.

Yes. If only it weren't so difficult.

When you start looking into meaning, intention, and truth, you run up against all sorts of folks who've been pondering these things a whole lot longer than us.

Of course a sentence does not have to be true or false (in the wholly logical sense). But, then again: all's I been saying is that logic has bugger all to do with grammar. Let's not lose sight of the OP. That's why I mentioned "situational semantics". And, also why, I brought fiction into things. You can dismiss these things all you want, but it's like not voting in an election: once you've decided not to vote, you don't get to kvetch. At least not without more meaning.
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#206329 - 07/04/12 03:17 AM Re: oats and beings [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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Maybe grammer can go sleep in many vibrant colors now? Grammar and grammar are not one and the same thing all over this world. Philosophically maybe, but not in practice. I really like to see you bickering over 'what's not'. But when you bring in the OPs, where even looking UP does not help, I will go drink my Orange Pekoe tea.

OP


Edited by BranShea (07/04/12 07:56 AM)
Edit Reason: grrr.. :-)

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#206330 - 07/04/12 06:41 AM Re: oats and beings [Re: zmjezhd]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: zmjezhd


When you start looking into meaning, intention, and truth, you run up against all sorts of folks who've been pondering these things a whole lot longer than us.


And some of them still seem to think that, just because we have words we're better off than all those animals that don't. And they still can't past those inconvenient little stumbling blocks like "This sentence is false."

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#206331 - 07/04/12 10:49 AM Re: oaths and matins [Re: Faldage]
zmjezhd Offline
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just because we have words we're better off than all those animals that don't

You'll be happy to know that at least one philosopher does not think that language has anything to do with communication. His is a thin book, but I always lose steam halfway through when I try to read it. It helps that he's pretty arrogant and teaches German at UC Santa Cruz. "Lick the magic banana slug!"

And they still can't past those inconvenient little stumbling blocks like "This sentence is false."

At least old Gödel tried to address that one.
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#206332 - 07/04/12 10:56 AM Re: Jutes and Geats [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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Grammar and grammar are not one and the same thing all over this world.

See, you're getting the hang of it. What's the truth value of the quoted sentence?

So, when I use a word I know what it means and the rest of you know what you mean by that self-same word. That way, when I talk about peonies and paeans, you're thinking 'bout flowers and odes to Fruchtheit, but I'm thinking about posttransitive verbal clitics and anthologies of bloomenkvist, but it does not matter what we're thinking on, cuz those thoughts can never escape our addled brainpane.

Original Post.
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#206333 - 07/04/12 11:23 AM Re: Jutes and Geats [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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laugh This looks like an exam. Up to OP this was all constructive instruction, even though there was some quizzing involved.
Charles the Bold (de Stoute) was bold in Old Dutch, in modern Dutch he would be Charles (Karel) the Naughty. ( stout today = naughty, not bold)

This was explained to us in primary school to prevent giggles. It proves once more that the meaning of words as said before changes with time.

PS. The truth value is stable.


Edited by BranShea (07/04/12 11:31 AM)

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#206351 - 07/05/12 11:09 AM Re: grammatical sentences and nonsense [Re: zmjezhd]
Jackie Offline

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Um...I have struggled through all these posts, and glanced at the Wikipedia article, and at first I was quite confused because it seemed like zmjezhd was saying that because some sentence can't be verified as true, it therefore isn't grammatical. But then there seemed to be a switch to discussing logic...? A whole different concept, she said ungrammatically.

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#206355 - 07/05/12 11:54 AM Re: grandma's lodgings [Re: Jackie]
zmjezhd Offline
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at first I was quite confused because it seemed like zmjezhd was saying that because some sentence can't be verified as true, it therefore isn't grammatical.

That is the opposite of what I was trying to say. Most linguists separate semantics and logic from grammar. For this group of people there can be perfectly grammatical sentences, e.g., the example sin the OP. Though they be meaningless for semantic or logical reasons. Again, I apologize for the confusion.
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#206376 - 07/07/12 10:14 PM Re: grandma's lodgings [Re: zmjezhd]
Jackie Offline

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S'ok; I prolly read through it all too fast. Thanks.

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