freezeframe: But, understanding what the writer meant doesn't make the sentence as such make sense.
5jj: I don't agree entirely. If the meaning of an utterance shines through, then the sentence makes sense!
For example, the double negative, as in 'I can't see no ships' (= 'I can't see any ships') was acceptable English for centuries, and it still makes perfect sense to millions of 'uneducated' speakers. It was only the efforts of presccriptive grammarians, applying rules from another field, that convinced some people that it 'didn't make sense'.
If we applied the rules of logic to much of the informal conversation going on in the English-speaking world today, we would have to conclude that people were talking gibberish - and yet effective communication is going on everywhere.
In writing, where the person producing language has no immediate contact with those receiving it, it is necessary to be more careful - with insufficient context, 'I can't see no ships' could now become ambiguous. However, even here, the 'no-sense' criticism is sometimes artificial. Only last night, BC, Parser and I were looking at 'English has the largest vocabulary of any other language'. If we apply logic to this, it doesn't make real sense; how can one language have the largest vocabulary of other languages? It's nonsense. And yet, most native speakers would understand the intended meaning, and I believe that not many would even notice the 'mistake'. In real life, it makes sense.
freezeframe: This is, after all, a forum for discussing English grammar...
5jj: True. I have already said that Churchill's sentence was 'grammatically' incorrect, something I did not even notice, initially. My point was that the intended meaning was clear to me, and to some others. I am pretty sure that, if the words were spoken, no native speaker would have any problem at all in understanding the intended meaning.
It is only when we come to examine the written word that the problems arise. I agree that, in writing, Churchill should have written 'it' instead of 'them'. This would not only have been 'grammatically correct', but would have avoided any possibility of confusion.
However, I feel personally that, even in the written form, most native speakers would not even notice the slip, and would understand the intended meaning completely. The only people who would normally notice it would be teachers ( and not all of us ), people who write angry letters to The Times, and people studying the language.
Last edited by 5jj; 28-Apr-2011 at 15:01.
I'm not going to bother reading that. I'm sure you're not really interested in a discussion and, fortunately, I'm not one of your students. So, topic closed.
"Defeat is bitter. There is no use in trying to
explain defeat. People do not like defeat
and they do not like the explanations,
however elaborate or plausible, which are
given of them."
This is from a collection of Churchill's speeches from the 12th of November 1940 to the 30th of December 1941. He may have said those exact words, they may have been transcribed incorrectly, or mistakes could have been made in the printing of the book.
When I first read it I understood the meaning, but I read "of them" as "to them". During the course of this long thread I have realised my mistake. As it is written it's wrong, but whether it was meant to be "defeats" or "to them" we will probably never know.
Last edited by bhaisahab; 28-Apr-2011 at 11:31.
Reason: Addition of "probably"
It's a pity there isn't a 'like' button for the 'Last edited by...' slot.
Originally Posted by bhaisahab
Actually, I am interested in discussing this, as freezeframe might have realised if she had read my post. I considered the idea of 'sense in nonsense' as the subject of a dissertation many years ago.
Originally Posted by freezeframe
The subject is not closed for me, but this thread is not the place for further discussion. If anybody is interested, I'll be starting a thread on this in the Linguistics forum when I get back from holiday in a couple of weeks.
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