Is Python the Esperanto of programming languages?

Carl Banks imbosol-1048365352 at aerojockey.com
Sat Mar 22 22:21:13 CET 2003


Steven Taschuk wrote:
> Quoth Carl Banks:
>> Steven Taschuk wrote:
>> > I don't, however, think that these add up to the morpheme "saying
>> > nothing".
>> 
>> Ok, let's say it means nothing in the same sense that sin x = x.  How
>> about that?
> 
> When I first read this, I was truly baffled; now I'm just unsure
> what you mean.

It means I think the ending on the verb means almost nothing, in the
same way that sin x is almost x.

[snip]

>> > In my personal theory of meaning (idiosemantics?), it
>> > always means "third person singular", and its absence always means
>> > "not third person singular"; this explains why
>> >   1.   The man goes to the store.      is good,
>> >   2.  *The man go to the store.        is bad, and
>  [...]
>> I don't agree with the reasoning here.  Things that are paradoxical or
>> nonsensical don't always sound bad, and things that sound bad are not
>> always nonsensical or paradoxical.
> 
> Well, no.  I hadn't intended to imply so general a rule.
> 
> However, I don't see any bright line between "sounding bad" and
> "semantically incoherent".  For example:
>    4a.   The man goes to the store.
>     b.  *The man go to the store.
>    5a.   John ceased to have fits of anger.
>     b.  *John ceased to have a fit of anger.
>    6a.   That sentence is false.
>     b.  *This sentence is false.
> (4b) sounds bad, and is unacceptable for that reason whether the
> meaning is clear or not.  (6b) sounds fine, and is unacceptable
> only for high-level semantic reasons.  I borrow (5) from McCawley,
> who analyzes (5b) (and other examples) as unacceptable because
> "cease to" can be applied only to things which "can be interpreted
> as denoting a state" as opposed to an event -- a semantic
> restriction.  But (5b) causes (in me) a mental hiccup that feels
> very similar to the one caused by (4b).

See, 5b is a semantic error.  4b is a morphological error.

I took your argument to be that 4b sounded wrong because the semantics
were wrong.  I've been saying all along I don't even think there is a
semantic error, because the verbal ending is meaningless compared to
the subject.  I think 4b sounds bad because the morphology's wrong.


-- 
CARL BANKS




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