It all started when Ritchie was reading the Guardian and spot a big error,
which, he comforted his self, “is common.” He was looking for feedback about
it, though – as if he were in the ‘common room’ of some Oxonian college. The
i. Born in Japan, Ishiguro’s family moved to the UK when he
McEvoy notes that it is not obvious this is an error, in that it is not obvious
that the utterer need not care to ‘inform’ his addressee where Ishiguro’s
family was born, only Ishiguro alone.
For the record, if one must be as informative as is required (alla Grice),
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, the son of Shizuo and Shizuko Ishiguro (Vide:
Barry Lewis, “Kazuo Ishiguro.” Manchester University Press). In a way, Lewis is
not being as informative is required. Cfr.: Herbert Paul Grice was born in
Harborne, the son of Herbert Grice and Mabel Fenton.)
McEvoy goes on:
“Meaning analysis can be very complicated, and may not reduce to exceptionless
‘rules,’ and I think we may get further by looking at the intended meaning [or
implicature], and considering the words used as an attempt to solve a problem
in conveying a certain meaning. Now we can take "Born in Japan, Ish's family”
McEvoy is using Ishiguro’s nickname –
Cfr. the NYT: “Ishiguro — his friends call him Ish — became a public figure in
[some time ago], but to anyone paying attention he seemed to have arrived fully
formed as a writer.”
The writer of the NYT piece seems to be implicating that McEvoy is Ishiguro’s
friend – but I disgress on an important point (or common ‘error’).
McEvoy quotes The Guardian’s utterance
“Born in Japan, Ish[iguro]’s family moved to the UK when he was five.”
and notes that it can be expanded [via the explicature of the implicature] it
in various ways.
The expansion McEvoy chooses is – it’s more like a replacement, but I see his
point. He means that the original Guardian utterance can be ‘rephrased’ in
terms of these ‘expansions’ (or ‘conflations’):
"Ish's family (including Ish) being born in Japan , they (including Ish) moved
to [the UK] when Ish was five."
Six according to some sources. It might come as a surprise that, as an
oceanographer, Ish’s father moved to inland Guildford, but the implicature is
that those in the know know that that’s where the Institute of Oceanography is
located. The ‘Ish’ family spoke Japanese since, to rephrase Ish’s wording, “My
father wasn’t sure we were going to stay for long; so he wanted us to keep the
culture.” He does not expand on whether Shikuzo Ish was happy with the moving –
but he does later grant that, to rephrase him, “I’ve always seen the world
through MY PARENTS [_sic_ plural]’s eyes.” (The implicature being that while
his Japan may be ‘imaginary,’ it is rooted in both his parents’ conception of
it – very real.
But back to The Guardian:
“The parentheticals may be taken as "implicatures" (as, in most families, all
family members are typically born in the same country - unless there is a move
Well, Ish has said that ‘in the future’ this [that McEvoy is referring to] will
not be that ‘obvious’. I don’t know about oceanographers much, but it might
well be possible that Ish senior met a colleague oceanographer from say
Finland. Oceanography, like other disciplines, can be very specific.
“We can also have a variant where it is only Ish's birthplace we take as
referenced by the "Being born..." Giving: "(Ish) being born in Japan, his
family moved (with him) to the UK when Ish was five."
I like that. I would actually explicate that to read Nagasaki. Especially when
it is H. Ishiguro who was born in Tokyo. Ritchie was talking about bigness and
Japan is big. But The Guardian is not recognized as following Grice’s ‘be as
informative as you can’. The Daily Telegraph is! (even with “Daily” dropped as
“I think the actual wording is open-ended as to what variant we adopt - i.e. it
could be interpreted either way.”
Perhaps we should research more into the actual Guardian utterer. Regular
readers of The Guardian might recognise the utterer and be more ‘familiar’ with
the type of implicatures this utterer has a penchant for inviting, if that’s
“But this difference in interpretation is irrelevant to the intended gist -
which does narrow to the fact Ish was, from the age of five, raised in a
different country from his birth country (and perhaps the birth country of his
Six, according to other sources. And since his father was not sure he liked
Guildford, he kept speaking Japanese in the home, thinking that Ish might want
to return. In fact, Ish did return, only to find that his Japanese was ‘poor’
(I’m rephrasing) and – this surprised me – “I couldn’t get awards there.” He
adds, “But the people in Japan still see me as one of their own” (I’m
rephrasing). Lots of implicatures there in that it is, for Popper, an
implicated universal quantifier-dominated utterance, almost.
“As a matter of economy,”
Exactly, an abiding of Grice, ‘be brief.’
“the actual wording conveys this gist - but perhaps at the expense of
grammatical explicitness on the whole factual matrix from which this gist is
Is there also the implicature that five is a crucial age? I mean, when H.
Ishiguro moved to the UK (Oxford), she did it on her own. There may be an
implicature that Ish never ‘decided’ to move – “His family, born in Japan,
did.” On his behalf, we may even extract as an implicature. The oceanographer
could have travelled to Guildford on his own and visit his family on extended
leaves or something.
But then, when Grice left Oxford, he left on his own. His wife, and two
children, followed suit, but ONE YEAR later! So it was up to Grice to buy the
house in the New World, and the rest of it. Consider:
“Born in England, Grice’s children moved to the New World, after Grice himself
had done one year earlier.”
Since at the time the chidren could ‘choose,’ the implicature is different, we
assume, from Ish’s case.
“Thus here we have a typical example of a trade-off in how we could go about
solving a problem of conveying meaning. Whatever the differences in opinion on
the trade-off made, and whether it is a good one or not, I am sceptical that
the drawbacks of the trade-off made constitute "grammatical error" (though of
course it is open to someone to argue otherwise).”
I think Ritchie’s point is that it is an error in ‘usage’. Surely it does
pertain to what Witters calls ‘depth grammar.’ But since for Witters meaning is
almost usage, and then there’s ‘depth grammar,’ this is a trick!
I think it’s an error in implicature, alleged.
“This of course raises wider issues of how we characterise "grammatical error",
on which there is a lot of rubbish written - often by people mistaking their
stipulations and conventions for necessities.”
I agree. Ritchie said the ‘error’ (unqualified) was ‘common’ – and I would add:
to “The Guardian” not necessarily being the implicature. It perhaps would not
have slipped an editorial in THE TIMES, say? (Further implicature?).
If Witters is right that there IS a ‘depth grammar,’ surely the way to test
this is to provide, alla Grice, the logical form of (i) – considering what
Chomsky says about anaphora – and provide the deductively arrived conclusion.
Or not, of course! (To know what is implicated, we need to know what is
explicated in the first place, sort of thing).