The Grice Club


The Grice Club

The club for all those whose members have no (other) club.

Is Grice the greatest philosopher that ever lived?

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Grice: where someone drowns determines their chance of survival


From today's "World Wide Words" (c) Michael Quinion at
"Drowning, not waving? Several readers denied there was anything wrong with a headline in last week’s Sic! section: “Where someone drowns determines their chance of survival.” They argued that drowning isn’t necessarily fatal because victims can be resuscitated. I was so surprised that I checked the verb in numerous dictionaries. All the definitions include the word die, which reflects the everyday sense of the verb. Drowning may indicate a process but drown is surely final. I wonder if a shift in meaning is developing under the lexicographical radar?"
The issue may be one of conversational implicature (rather than logical entailment) Or not.

I like 'shift of meaning' -- at least it's not 'shift of sense'! (Grice, "Do not multiply senses beyond necessity").


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Interestinger and interestinger: the implicature


From today's World Wide Words, ed. by M. Quinion: World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 2013.


In "The Golden Egg" Donna Leon has Commissario Brunetti (an Italian) utter,

"Interestinger and interestinger".

Quinion comments: "English grammar didn’t allow the creation of a comparative in -er from such a long word, other than for humorous effect."

The implicature at play seems complicated. Because it's one thing what Donna Leon IMPLICATES and what Commissario Brunetti does.

Note that in symbols of logic, comparatives are a problem _per se_.

Quinion goes on:

"I’d not encountered it before, but found many examples, mostly from recent decades, though the oldest was from New Outlook, an American magazine of 1909. Online, it has been attributed to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, though what Alice actually said, of course, was curiouser and curiouser. The interestinger and interestinger version was presumably created by analogy with it."

Or not.

In "A nice derangement of epitaphs", D. Davidson (in the Grice festschrift) writes that 'language' is an abstraction, and so is 'grammar':

"grammar does not allow 'interestinger and interestinger'. But Commissario Brunetti's idiolect-meaning procedures presumably do!

Still, there must be a conversational maxim we can appeal to here, or not!