On Fri, 18 Nov 2005, caeruleancentaur wrote: 
> --- In [log in to unmask], Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@m...> wrote:
> >I'm not clear on why so few readers were clear on the idiom quoted 
> >as 'I'm not clear on ...'.  Perhaps it came from reading too fast!  
> >The 'translation' into 'It isn't clear to me why ... ' is, of 
> course, >a metaphor.  I'm unsure whether a computational linguist 
> would >consider metaphors to be idioms, since the allegorical use of 
> terms >that don't strictly apply to the objects of discussion is a 
> technique >common to most natlangs (I don't say it's universal), and 
> one
> >which supplies the means for much generalisation and transfer of 
> >meaning.
> Mr. Wier himself gave us to the two separate phrasings:
> "I think it could be interesting to include a requirement like this 
> in one of my nonhuman languages (which is why it caught my 
> attention), but I'm not clear how it would work out in practice.
> "(There we go with one of those weird English idioms again, I 
> mean "it's not clear to me" :-) And "there we go" also deserves 
> mention in a list of idioms....)"

Yes, Charlie, he did indeed.  My point was that too many readers 
missed his message, and critiqued only his use of the 'translation'
as though he had intended that as an example of 'those weird 
English idioms'.

> Is it possible that a word can be an idiom in one phrasing and not 
> an idiom in another even though the meaning is the same?

Not if the phrase is the idiom.  If the word 'cats' in English 
appears both in a direct statement of fact and also in an 
idiomatic phrase, eg 'All cats are grey.' and 'It's raining cats 
and dogs', in each case the word 'cats' has the same literal 
meaning - which the idiom belies - that's _why_ it's an idiom.
when you tell me 'It's raining cats and dogs', it would be 
silly of me to aks you to point out which are the cats and 
which are the dogs.

> "I'm not clear..." seems to be a metaphor.  Perhaps a metaphor is a 
> subset of idiom.  One can't replace it with a synonym: "I'm not 
> plain," "I'm not evident."
> However, in "it's not clear to me," there can be 
> substitutions: "it's not plain to me," "it's not evident to me."  
> And I maintain that this is not an idiom since "clear," in this 
> context, is synonymous with words like "evident" or "plain."  I 
> would imagine that the original meaning of "clear" was "not opage, 
> unmuddied."  Other meanings would have to be connotative.  But to 
> hold that this construction is an idiom would mean that any 
> connotative use of a word is an idiom.  I'm not ready to accept 
> that.  The meaning of this particular phrase is obvious from its 
> constituent parts.

I agree entirely.

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