[lit-ideas] Paronymy

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 17:33:48 EDT

Was: French professor.
McEvoy claims:
>"English Professor" may be 
>ambiguous but it is not wrong to use it 
>to mean "Professor of English ..."
So far so good. Problem is, McEvoy embeds his claim in a 'anymore  than...' 
ambiguous, slightly irrelevant, claim:
>...anymore than it is right to insist that History
>Professor  must denote a professor who is history 
For surely 'history' and 'English' are different disciplines -- note the  few 
Google hits for "professor who is history" -- as opposed to "who _made_  
In any case, the issue here is PARONOMY -- as Grice noted in connection  with 
his work on Aristotle:
Grice writes:

"It is evident that Aristotle habitually thinks of the  focal item as being a 
universal, or at least some kind of general entity; but  such restriction is 
not mandatory, nothing prevents the focal being from being a  particular."
"Consider the adjective 'French" -- as it occurs in the phrases."
     French citizen
     French poem
     French professor
"The following feateures are perhaps significant."
"The appearance of the adjective 'French' in these phrases is what I might  
call 'adjunctive' rather than 'conjunctive' (or 'attributive')."
"A French poem is not, as I see it, something which combines the separate  
features of being a poem and being French, as a fat philosopher would simply  
combine the features of being fat and of being a philosopher [such as Sir Karl  
Popper. -- JLS]."
"'French', here, occurs, so to speak, _adverbially_."
"The phrase 'French citizen' _standardly_ means "citizen of France", while  
the phrase 'French poem' _standardly_ means "poem in French"."
"But it would be a _mistake_ to suppose that this fact _implies_ that there  
are two (indeed more than two) _meanings_ (or _senses_) of the word 'French'.  
[cf. R. Paul's doubts about capitalizing 'major' -- JLS]."
"The word 'French' has only _one_ meaning: namely, 'of or pertaining to  
France' [and 'English' has only _one_ meaning: namely, 'of or pertaining to  
England -- JLS]."
"It will, however, be what I might call 'context-sensitive'. We might  indeed 
say, if you like, that while 'French' has only _one_ meaning or sense, it  
has a variety of _meanings-in-context_."
"Relative to one context, 'French' means 'of France'; as in the phrase  
'French citizen', whereas relative to another context, 'French' means 'in the  
French language, as in the phrase, 'French poem'."
    -- whereas 'history' does not behave, _contra_ McEvoy,  like this. JLS
"Whether the focal item is a universal or a particular is quite irrelevant  
to the question of the _meaning_ of the related adjective."
"The medical art is no more the meaning of the adjective 'medical', as  
France is the meaning of the adjective 'French'. 
"As a concluding observation, I may remark that while the attachment of the  
context may suggest an interpretation in context of a word, it need not be the 
 case that such a suggestion is indefeasible."
"It might be for instance that 'French poem' would have to mean, "poem  
composed in French", unless there were counter indications; in which case,  
the phrase might mean 'poem composed by a French competitor' in some  
"For the prhase 'French professor' there wold be two obvious meanings in  
context; and disambiguation would have to depend on a wider linguistic context  
or on the circumstances of utterance."
      (H. P. Grice, in Pacific Philosophical  Quarterly, vol 69). 


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