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Tem Sun, 6 Jun 1999 20:20:38 -0500, Tom Wier
<[log in to unmask]> skribis:

>> We can consider gerunds as verbal adverbs as well as we consider
>> participles as verbal adjectives. In fact, in Esperanto they both are
>> constructed with the respective ending -e and -a :
>> la legho regante homojn funkcias bone,
>> la legho reganta homojn,
>> (where homojn is the object of reg-).
>
>*Esperanto*  may interpret it this way, but morphologicly and
>syntacticly, English considers these to be adjectives which match up
>with a noun (here:  "ruling" with "we").  They may have an adverbial
>meaning, but that doesn't mean it's an adverb itself.  Besides, English
>*can* indicate adverbial participles explicitly, and there is a fairly
>strong tendency to do so when it can.  For example, the linguist's
>favorite:  "underlyingly".

I think that in English happens that it has the same form for the
gerund and the active participle (-ing) (this doesn't happen in e.g.
Spanish), and hence the confussion.=20
The walking man makes the way. (participle)
The man makes the way walking. (gerund)

Sometimes arises a need for distinguishing both meanings, and hence
forms like "underlyingly", which corresponds to Spanish "subyaciendo"
(Eo subestante) while "underlying" (participle) would correspond to
"subyacente" (Eo subestanta).


>> >Are fungi animals?  Are plants animals? By the definition given =
above, they are.
>>
>> Please note that my definition was conciously incomplete (hence the
>> "etc.").
>
>I understand that, but I'm just trying to highlight the fact that you =
*can't*
>have complete definitions -- because the definition is based on how =
people
>use it, and lots of people use even very basic words in very different =
ways.
>Definitions, just like everything else about language, change all the =
time.

Well, they tend to change slowly, anyway.

>For example, the Linnaean biological systemization, IIRC, does not =
include
>fungi or plants in the subheading "animal" -- both of them have their =
own separate
>kingdom.  Yet I'm sure you can find plenty of people who have a broader
>meaning of "animal": they're anything that lives (which is the =
definition you gave
>above).

I repeat that I didn't give any complete definition (hence the
"etc."). Anyway, it's not so important in a language like the one I'm
developing that people stick strictly to what the dictionary says
about a word. You can shift from it as long as you're sure your
interlocutor is not going to misunderstand you.

>
>Remember again that ambiguity means lack of clarity which leads to =
multiple
>possible interpretations (where context is the only guide to meaning).  =
If I
>said to you, "Hey, there's an animal sitting over on that rock", who =
knows
>what I meant by that?  The word "animal" itself could mean, without any =
further
>context, anything from a gecko to the Constitution of the United States,=
 depending
>on whether you're talking, so to speak, about a physical _anima_ or a =
metaphorical
>_anima_.

Well, as you know, metaphora is not recommended in international
languages, because something that in your language may
(metaphorically) mean something positive, may look negative to other
people. E.g., if you call someone an "animal", it may be an insult in
some cultures or a flattery in others.

>> but a loglang would have just one of them (the main one, I guess).
>
>Such a system would, if it were used by actual people in a large =
community,
>begin to break down almost immediately.  Because people are individuals,
>they feel the need to extend and expand the language to fill their own =
needs,
>and often that means making meanings of words or constructions
>conscientiously less clear.  One can't anymore force one and only one =
meaning
>on a word than you can force people to use that meaning (and I don't =
think we
>need to recount how often *that* has sucessfully been tried in history).

As said above, that's not such a problem while you don't shift too far
away from "central" meaning of the word.

>> Following your arguments, no noun may be unambiguous in a language
>> (except, perhaps, proper nouns). If you say, "a chair", then you're
>> being ambiguous, because, no matter how precisely you define what is a
>> chair, there are millions of chairs in the world.
>
>Right -- that's what I implied in my last post, wasn't it? Like I said, =
I think
>it's often more of a spectrum thing than an either-or thing. "chair" is =
just
>less ambiguous than "animal" or "entity".

I don't think that a word with a wider meaning has inherently to be
more ambiguous than a more explicit one. If you define "animal" as
"something which makes noise" then you have that everything which
makes noise is an animal, and everything which doesn't is not. And
that covers a lot of different things, but the definition is pretty
definite. No ambiguity.=20
And with that definition, if someone says "there's an animal sitting
on the rock" you know exactly what he meant: "there's a thing which
makes noise sitting on the rock". And he hasn't been ambiguous, he has
just being little explicit, because he has used a wide-meaning word.

>I think you're confusing syntactic ambiguity with general ambiguity: =
they're not
>the same thing.  Syntactic ambiguity is merely a subset of general =
ambiguity.
>And ambiguity in language is more than just syntactic ambiguity, just as=
 there's
>more to a language than its syntax (or morphology, or whatever).

I divide ambiguity in syntactical and semantical. We agree on what
syntactical one is. As for semantical one, I have to say that your
vision may be valid, but has no utility in linguistics because with it
all words are ambiguous. So I find better to use ambiguous in a more
restricted way: "which has two unrelated meanings". Now, it seems that
"ambiguous" is ambiguous, eh? :)


Saludos,
Marcos