Topic: Syn-Sem Interface
ONE COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT SYNTAX
Inspired by Kent Bach's The Top 10 Misconceptions about Implicature
, I shall try to write a little bit about misconceptions in Syntax and, inasmuch as possible, semantics.
One common misconception is
One can determine to which category one lexical item belongs and which kind of structural configuration is obtained by meaning constraints.
Although meaning differences count in tests, this is not a sure path to detect structure or classify items.
First of all, there is one empirical problem that meaning does not determine structure. In making a compositional analysis, one has to assume a function relating structure and meaning. A function, not a bi-function
. Accordingly, one maps structure onto meaning and not the other way round. This is due to the well known fact that the relation between structure and meaning is something of more than one to one.
Now examine the sentences below:
(1) a. Joe intentionally killed Bill.
b. Joe killed Bill with intention.
(2) Joe intended to kill Bill.
Although the three seem to be equivalent, there are important structural and semantic differences. (1a) and (b) are true iff Bill is really dead, while (2) may be true regardless of whether Bill really died. (It is possible to claim (2) in a larger sentential context like Joe intended to kill Bill, but failed
or Joe intended to kill Bill, that is why Bill died
). This difference is an evidence of the contribution made by the different categories involved. In (1a) intentionally
is an adverb, while intended
is a verb in (2).
On the other hand, the PP with intention
is not an adverb, even if there is no meaning difference between (a) and (b). (to be continued...)
Posted by Tony Marmo
at 20:49 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 11 November 2004 20:53 GMT