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The Quandary about xorlo


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> pc:
> > --- And Rosta wrote:
> > > 1. One might see "I went to the doctor
> today",
> > > "Go
> > > to the toilet/bathroom", "I get the bus to
> > > work" as
> > > involving Mr Doctor, Mr Toilet, Mr Bus.
> They
> > > are
> > > all generics, and appear not to involve
> > > quantification
> > > or referential specificity. To me, "I need
> a
> > > doctor"
> > > and "I need the doctor" mean the same ("I
> need
> > > medical
> > > attention"). And "the doctor" in "I need
> the
> > > doctor"
> > > seems the same as in "Have you gone to the
> > > doctor about
> > > this problem?". Thus it seems that a
> > > satisfactory way
> > > of expressing genericity will also yield a
> > > satisfactory
> > > way of expressing opaque sumti.
> >
> > Well, it is not clear that "I went to the
> doctor
> > today" — presumably a particular
> identifiable
> > doctor and one that the hearer can identify
> at
> > least in some small way — or "Go to the
> > bathroom" — whatever one is available most
> > relatively near, and so on — are not generic
> at
> > all.
>
> "I went to the bathroom/doctor" is true if
> there
> is a bathroom/doctor that I went to. So why
> does
> English say "the"? It is not referentially
> specific

But of course it is: the one I went to is quite
specific and is the one being referred to in this
case. To be sure, who it is may not be
important, etc., but it is still there.

> and nor is there *literally* even only one
> individual
> that could satisfy the description (cf. "the
> priest
> that christened me" — "the" because only one
> priest
> christened me).

Yes, I might have gone to another doctor just as
effectively, but I did go to this one. Now, "I
will go to the doctor" is another matter.

English says "the" because the
> referent is the generic bathroom/doctor, of
> which
> there is, intrinsically, only one.

What the Hell is a generic doctor? I certainly
didn't go to one (unless you mean a GP or "Family
Practitioner"); I went to a very specific one.
Which is a good thing, because specific ones are
all there are.

> > "I get the bus" is more nearly generic in
> > that the bus token may be different on each
> day
> > though the bus type is the same or pretty
> much so
> > (Lojban — and english — is lousy on
> token-type
> > ambiguity) "I need the doctor" seems to me
> also
> > to be specific to the extent of implicating
> that
> > there is one designated in the common
> > environment. But, if there is not, if it
> means
> > essentially the same as "I need a doctor,"
> then I
> > don't see what the point is here, for this is
> not
> > a generic reference in any so far expounded
> sense
> > of "generic" (and I have been trying to get
> > someone to explain that "generic reference"
> in
> > the first definition of {lo} since that page
> > first appeared).
>
> This is the crux. There is something that I,
> xorxes
> and the linguistics literature on generics call
> "generic", and it is the meaning of xorlo "lo",
> but your interlocutors have been unable to
> explain
> it to you to your satisfaction.

Hell, they haven't explained it at all. I know
there are specific individual doctors (real and
possible). What else is there? To be sure, we
sometimes talk about specific doctors in general
ways, that is using particular quantifiers and
the like, but that is neither a different kind of
reference (xorxes would say it isn't reference at
all) nor reference to a different kind of thing:
it is reference in a different mode (it is too
bad that {su'a} is not among the modals — maybe
it is not what is wanted, however). And that
mode does not appear in these examples.

 
>This doesn't
> mean
> that you or your interlocutors are at fault.
> But
> I don't see any way to overcome this particular
> impasse.

 
Getting a coherent notion of what the mumbo-jumbo
is about would help. As far as I can tell, there
is nothing in Linguistics that covers this issue
in a relevant way. And what there is that might
fit doesn't hook up with what you all keep
saying.

> > And, insofar as I can get clear
> > statements of what happens, the Dr. Dr.
> reading
> > simply will not help: I don't need Dr. Dr.
> but a
> > real doctor and Dr. Dr. is not even a doctor,
> let
> > alone the one I need
>
> Dr Dr is a real doctor and is the one that is
> needed.

Not so on the first point (since there is no
particular doctor I need and, if Dr. Dr. is a
doctor he is a particular one). And, of course,
not so on the second. Because of all the
problems (inferring a false conclusion from a
true premise being the most obvious one).

> > > 2. The claim is not that {lo broda} can
> *mean*
> > > whatever
> > > the speaker wants it to, but rather that it
> can
> > > (because
> > > of its genericity) *refer* to whatever
> whatever
> > > broda
> > > the speaker wants it to. Consider English
> mass
> > > nouns
> > > like "water" or "gold" — any bit of gold
> can
> > > be
> > > referred to as "gold".
> >
> > The analogy escapes me. Referring to a
> single
> > object as "gold" is to identify it by its
> > substance, not to identify it as that
> substance
> > tout court.
>
> The truthconditions of "I found gold in my
> garden"
> are such that if I found any bit of gold then
> it
> is true.

Yes. And so? And the claim I went to a doctor is
true if there is a doctor I went to. No opacity
here and so no problems.

> > Doctors are presumably not made of
> > Dr. Dr.; if anything, Dr. Dr. is made of
> them.
> > Note that genericity — asexemplified by mass
> > nouns at least — doesn't help with opacity:
> "I
> > need gold" has the same problems as "I need a
> > doctor:" there is no gold that I need because
> > some other would do as well nor do I need all
> the
> > gold there is (or ever will have been or
> might
> > possibly be). That is, "gold" in that
> context
> > refers even less than it does in other
> contexts.
>
> How about "I need you"? Is that opaque? How
> does
> it differ from "I need gold"? Or "I need John"?
> Or "I need Viagra"?

Well, the supposedly relevant condition is that
you certainly and John probably exist. All of
them are cases of needing a proposition verified
and in the first two — about individuals,
another relevant factor — the bulk of the
propositions is left out as "obvious." In the
case of Viagra, there are a number of things it
might mean — all of them implicit and so in that
way like the you and John cases, but the most
likely one contains a further reduction, from "I
need a dose of Viagra" and that leads into the
same problems as "I need a doctor": the scope of
the "a" is buried in the scope of need (and/or
the proposition) and so cannot be unpacked in the
here-and-now. Giving a name to a purported
unpacking does not change this.

 


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