26.2104, Qs: Dash Interpolation

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Mon Apr 20 20:32:27 UTC 2015


LINGUIST List: Vol-26-2104. Mon Apr 20 2015. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 26.2104, Qs: Dash Interpolation

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Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:32:12
From: Seiichi Myoga [st_myoga at i.gmobb.jp]
Subject: Dash Interpolation

 
Dear Linguists,

I'm planning to write a paper about the interpretation of (1) for learners of
English here in Japan. 

(1) Not that professional philosophers don't make – and even defend – the old
mistakes too.

(1) is part of something that applicants for Kyoto University were required to
put into their native language, Japanese. According to ''model'' answers in
the books that many if not all would-be applicants refer to say (1) means
something like (2).

(2)*Not that professional philosophers don't make and don't even defend, the
old mistakes too.

This misinterpretation seems to be due to lack of understanding of:

(3a) the use of ''not that'' (what is not to be inferred from the context is
actually the part ''professional philosophers don't make the old mistakes
too),
(3b) the use of the dash interpolation ''– and ... –'' (the part ''even
defend'' is outside the scope of two negations, or independent of the rest of
the sentence),
(3c) the use of ''not ... too'' (''not'' only denies the semantic component
''professional philosophers make the old mistakes,'' with the presupposition
triggered by ''too,'' that is, the pragmatic component ''someone other than
professional philosophers makes the old mistakes'' intact), and
(3d) the use of ''even'' (defending the old mistakes is more informative and
thus stronger than making the old mistakes on a salient scale).

Probably, (3a) is the main player here: as I see it, the greatest problem with
English education in Japan lies in failing to teach how to draw felicitous
inferences. But among the four possible factors, (3b) seems most foreign to
learners here. So I'm considering using (1) to explain the usage of dash
interpolation (see, for example, Quirk et al 1985:932;976).

What I'd like you to do is give us the right interpretation of (1). But
suppose that ''not that p'' means simply ''not p.'' 

(4) She ignored my suggestion – not that I care. [=I do not care that she
ignored my suggestion] (Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary)

Actually, you could add ''I don't'' after ''not that I care,'' so ''not p'' is
merely a conversational implicature. But to understand exactly what (1) means,
it's better to focus on the implicature (rather than on the literal meaning). 

My interpretation is this:

(5) Professional philosophers make the old mistakes too [=as well as
scientists] and even defend the old mistakes (they made).

I believe the part ''they made'' is indispensable.
What do you think? Any comments and improvements are welcome.

Thank you in advance,

Seiichi Myoga

In case you need the relevant context, here it is:

Scientists often ask me why philosophers devote so much of their effort to
teaching and learning the history of their field. Chemists typically get by
with only a rudimentary knowledge of the history of chemistry, picked up along
the way, and many molecular biologists, it seems, are not even curious about
what happened in biology before about 1950. My answer is that the history of
philosophy is in large measure the history of very smart people making very
tempting mistakes, and if you don't know the history, you are doomed to making
the same darn mistakes all over again. That's why we teach the history of the
field to our students, and scientists who blithely ignore philosophy do so at
their own risk. There is no such thing as philosophy-free science, just
science that has been conducted without any consideration of its underlying
philosophical assumptions. The smartest or luckiest of the scientists
sometimes manage to avoid the pitfalls quite adroitly (perhaps they are
''natural born philosophers'' – or are as smart as they think they are), but
they are rare exceptions. Not that professional philosophers don't make – and
even defend – the old mistakes too. If the questions weren't hard, they
wouldn't be worth working on. (D. C. Dennett, Intuition Pumps And Other Tools
for Thinking)
 

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
                     Pragmatics
                     Semantics
                     Syntax
                     Translation

Subject Language(s): English (eng)



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