difference in form without difference in meaning
tgivon at uoregon.edu
Fri Aug 5 05:15:57 UTC 2011
Right on, Vic. The old fox was not stupid, he just needed to idealize
synchrony by segregating it from diachrony. Standard Saussurean
position. Or Chomskian. TG
On 8/4/2011 10:22 PM, Victor K. Golla wrote:
>> I had always been quite skeptical of Dwight Bolinger's idea that
>> differences in (lexical and syntactic) form always correlate with
>> meaning differences. But I have become less skeptical recently
> I think Bolinger was merely paraphrasing Bloomfield, according to whom
> the "fundamental assumption of linguistics" (i.e., "In certain
> communities some speech-utterances are alike as to form and meaning")
> implies that each linguistic form has a constant and specific
> meaning. If the ... forms are different, we suppose that their
> meanings also are different....We suppose, in short, that there
> are no actual synonyms (Language, 1933, 144-45).
> Bloomfield, however, was at pains to confine this "somewhat rigid
> analysis of speech-forms" to "the descriptive phase of linguistics" in
> which pragmatic, sociolinguistic, and diachronic variation is
> purposely ignored. But "when we deal with the historical change of
> language, we shall be concerned with facts for which our assumption
> does not hold good" (ibid, 158).
> --Victor Golla
> On Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 2:17 PM, Frederick J Newmeyer
> <fjn at u.washington.edu> wrote:
>> Dear Funknetters,
>> I am looking for convincing examples of where two syntactically-related sentence-types manifest clearly identical meanings, where 'meaning' is taken in its broadest sense, including discourse-pragmatic aspects. Another way of putting it is to say that I am looking for two sentence types that in early TG would have been related by 'optional rules', but which absolutely do not differ in meaning. It's not so easy to come up with good examples, once differences in topicality and focus are allowed as meaning differences. One possible example that comes to mind are sentences with or without complementizer-deletion, such as 'I knew that he'd be on time', vs. 'I knew he'd be on time'. But even here there have been argued to be meaning differences.
>> One possibility that has been suggested to me is from Early Modern English, when many speakers could say both 'Saw you the bird?' and 'Did you see the bird?' Does anybody have evidence that there were subtle meaning differences here?
>> I had always been quite skeptical of Dwight Bolinger's idea that differences in (lexical and syntactic) form always correlate with meaning differences. But I have become less skeptical recently.
>> Frederick J. Newmeyer
>> Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
>> Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University
>> [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]
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