[Serious Phil] Sean on polysemy
larry_tapper_2 at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 14 19:58:28 CDT 2012
W> I do too--and you can guess how much it pains me to say that. But that 'helm'/'helm' rule you mentioned seems much less useful to me than a taxonomy according to which it's important what the words mean. The current rule seems like some sort of bureaucratic contrivance they might have had in India under the Raj (about when "for want of failure" was confusedly taken to mean "because
Oh, it isn't anywhere near that bad, or arbitrary.
I think the reason why different parts of speech are (as far as I know) never classified as polysemes is simply that their different functional roles, seeing as how they are different parts of speech, preclude the possibility of their having the same meaning, or even different shades of the same general meaning.
To helm is to perform an action; a helm is a thing. To me it's just apples and bobbing-for-apples, and the notion of 'similarity of meaning' doesn't apply in any clear way. We certainly can't speak of overlapping extensions, for starters.
(Speaking of which, what would you make of fish (V) and fish (N)?)
So these N-V pairs are ineligible to qualify as polysemes (similar but distinct meanings) but eligible to qualify as homonyms (just plain distinct meanings). That doesn't seem so strained or arbitrary to me.
Nor do these N-V pairs fit Sean's narrative template, by the way. ("I asked him for a helm, but instead he helmed"??).
--- In Phil-Sci-Mind at yahoogroups.com, "walto" <Philscimind at ...> wrote:
> --- In Phil-Sci-Mind at yahoogroups.com, "larry_tapper" <Philscimind@> wrote:
> > Sean W> So, the only question here is whether my sense of polysemy has family
> > resemblance (is a Type-1 problem). Because it is offering to differentiate a
> > very different kind of meaning that a word can have, it can play in the language
> > game. It can fit. It's merely a different sense of the idea. What you are
> > arguing is that technical senses always have to be spoken of. That is, of
> > course, ridiculous, and it shows why you do not understand Wittgenstein
> > sufficiently.
> > >
> > Walto> It's not that you can't do it or that it's unusual for words to grow somewhat
> > different senses in that fashion. The problem is that it's a poor strategy. As
> > Larry has pointed out the term has a pretty fixed technical use, so it mostly
> > creates confusion to be using it differently. Frank acknowledgement that you
> > mean something different than is customary by the term largely takes care of
> > problems of that type, but, supposing your sense catches on, SOMEBODY would
> > probably have to use a different word anyhow to prevent misunderstandings.
> > Yes, and another thing about this is that it's kind of weird to invoke the image of Wittgenstein smiling up there in philosopher heaven at the thought of Sean inventing a new use for an old word.
> > I think LW is often misread as an extreme reactionary in linguistic matters, frowning on any use that isn't hallowed by custom. That's a big exaggeration, but there is a grain of truth to that, because there are a number of passages in LW (including the unconscious toothache, mentioned a week or two ago) where he ridicules the pomposity of those who invent a new use and immediately insist that the new use is correct.
> > That said, I reread Sean's exposition of Type 1 and Type 2 problems, and you know, I kinda like it in some ways.
> I do too--and you can guess how much it pains me to say that. But that 'helm'/'helm' rule you mentioned seems much less useful to me than a taxonomy according to which it's important what the words mean. The current rule seems like some sort of bureaucratic contrivance they might have had in India under the Raj (about when "for want of failure" was confusedly taken to mean "because of failure").
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