Ofra Magidor: slides

Report
Category Mistakes
and Figurative Language
Ofra Magidor
University of Oxford
A popular view of category mistakes
the philosophers:
“[T]here are different ways in which a (declarative)
sentence might properly becalled ‘meaningless’.
Perhaps the best example involves so-called
category mistakes” (Beal and van Fraassen, 2003)
the linguists:
“[T]here are also sentences that are syntactically
well-formed, but do not make any sense…Chomsky's
(1957, p. 15) famous example makes this
point”(Sauerland and von Stechow, 2001)
category mistakes and figurative language
Metaphor:
The poem is pregnant.
Metonymy:
The cheese sandwich left without paying.
Fictional discourse:
The kind moon kissed the boy goodnight.
category mistakes and figurative language
Main claim:
The view that category mistakes are meaningless is
inconsistent with many otherwise plausible theories
of figurative language
category mistakes and metaphor
• Non-cognitivist account
“[Metaphor] is something brought off by the
imaginative employment of words and sentences and
depends entirely on the ordinary meanings of those
words and hence on the ordinary meanings of the
sentences they comprise” (Davidson (1978))
category mistakes and metaphor
• Non-cognitivist account
• Cognitivist account I:
Metaphorical meaning as conversational
implicatures
category mistakes and metaphor
• Non-cognitivist account
• Cognitivist account I:
Metaphorical meanings as conversational
implicatures
• Cognitivist account II:
Metaphorical meaning as primary meanings
Metaphorical meanings as primary meanings
Version 1: the literalist view (Stern):
• When sentences are used metaphorically, they contain the
covert operator ‘Mthat’
• “‘Mthat ’ is an operator at the level of logical form which, when
prefixed to a (literal) expression φ, yields a context-sensitive
expression ‘ Mthat[φ] ’ whose tokens in each context c express a
set of properties presupposed in c to be m(etaphorically)associated with the expression φ” (Stern 2006)
• For example: The poem is Mthat[pregenant]
Metaphorical meanings as primary meanings
Version 1: the literalist view (Stern):
• Question: Does ‘Mthat(φ)’ require ‘φ’ to be meaningful?
Answer: yes.
• The problem of complex metaphors:
Jane paced her thoughts around the room quickly.
• Claim: in the above example ‘Mthat’ needs to operate on
the entire VP
• Conclusion: the entire VP is meaningful
Metaphorical meanings as primary meanings
Version 2: the contextualist view
• Question: Does the expression being modulated
need to be (literally) meaningful?
Answer: yes.
“such processes take us from the literal meaning of some constituent
(the meaning that is linguistically encoded…) to a derived meaning”
“ what I am rejecting is not the claim that the literal interpretation of
the constituent is accessed before the derived interpretation – that I
take to be obvious – but the claim that a similar priority holds and the
level of the complete sentence”. (Recanti, 2004)
Metaphorical meanings as primary meanings
Version 2: the contextualist view
• Question: Does the expression being modulated need to
be (literally) meaningful?
Answer: yes.
• The problem of complex metaphors:
Jane paced her thoughts around the room quickly.
• Claim: in the above example, the entire VP needs to be
modulated
• Conclusion: the entire VP is meaningful
category mistakes and metaphor
• Non-cognitivist account
• Cognitivist account I:
Metaphorical meanings as conversational
implicatures
• Cognitivist account II:
Metaphorical meaning as primary meanings
- Literalist version
- Contextualist version
category mistakes and metonymy
• Metonymy as conversational implicature
• Metonymy and sense transfer
The cheese sandwich left without paying
category mistakes and metonymy
• Metonymy as conversational implicature
• Metonymy and sense transfer
The cheese sandwich orderer left without
paying
category mistakes and metonomy
The problem of complex metonymy:
Context:
- there are 30 people in the restaurant.
- 10 of these ordered cheese sandwiches, in range of sizes 1-6.
- Two of the costumers that ordered a cheese sandwich are
impatient: Jack, who ordered a size 4 sandwich, and Jill who
ordered a size 2.
Conversation:
A: The impatient cheese sandwich left without paying.
B: Which one?
A: The large impatient cheese sandwich.
category mistakes and metonomy
The problem of complex metonymy:
Example: The large impatient cheese sandwich left
without paying.
Claim: the minimal unit that undergoes sense
transfer is the entire NP
Conclusion: The entire NP is meaningful
category mistakes and metonomy
• Metonymy as conversational implicature
• Metonymy and sense transfer
• The analogue of Stern’s view
category mistakes and fictional discourse
• Meaning and truth in fictional contexts:
‘A famous detective lives in 221b Baker Street’.
‘A famous philosopher lives in 221b Baker Street’.
• The fictionally operator
According to the fiction, a famous detective lives in 221b Baker Street.
According to the fiction, a famous philosopher lives in 221b Baker
Street.
• Category mistakes and the fictionally operator
‘The kind moon kissed the boy good night’
‘The evil moon spit in the boy’s face’
category mistakes and fictional discourse
• The problem of fictional proper names:
‘Sherlock Holmes is a famous detective’.
‘Sherlock Holmes is a famous plumber’.
• Solution: ‘Sherlock Holmes’ refers to an abstract, fictional
character
• Objection: no abstract object is a detective
• Response: an abstract object might fictionally be a detective
• Upshot: most fictions involve category mistakes!
conclusion

similar documents