Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 524
    #1

    ambiguity, scope

    Hi,

    Some cat is feared by every mouse.

    Is that sentence in anyway to anyone here ambiguous ?

    Cheers

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 41,849
    #2

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    It's ambiguous and unnatural. What do you mean by "Some cat"? Do you mean "Some cats" (ie "not all cats")? Do you mean "Some cat or other" (ie an unspecified individual cat).

    If you mean "All mice are scared of cats" then just say that. I see no reason to make it more complicated.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  2. Roman55's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Italy
      • Current Location:
      • France

    • Join Date: Feb 2014
    • Posts: 2,310
    #3

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaskin View Post
    Is that sentence in anyway to anyone here ambiguous?
    I am not a teacher.

    Any way should be two words.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Jun 2008
    • Posts: 24,091
    #4

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaskin View Post
    Some cat is feared by every mouse.
    Yes, it's a simple example from logic. The two possible meanings are:
    1. There exists a cat which is feared by every mouse.
    2. For every mouse, there is some cat that the mouse fears. (There is no mouse which does not fear at least one cat).

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 524
    #5

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    Hi,
    I'm aware where the example is coming from and that it is unnatural; somehow I still fail to notice the second interpretation that Raymott listed.
    If we use a bit more natural sounding sentence 'every mouse is afraid of some cat' is the ambiguity still preserved ?

    Cheers

  4. Roman55's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Italy
      • Current Location:
      • France

    • Join Date: Feb 2014
    • Posts: 2,310
    #6

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    I am not a teacher.

    The two sentences have the same meaning. Some cat is feared by every mouse = Every mouse is afraid of some cat.

    It's some cat that poses the problem. It either means an unspecified, unnamed yet particular cat, or any one of the set of unspecified unknown cats (but not the same one in each instance).

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 524
    #7

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    Hi,

    The thing I'm trying to wrap my head around is that Polish, my native language, is nearly totally free word order language whereas in English the word order is more restricted hence I was just wandering whether the order of the sentence, in case of the two sentences, will have an influence on its meaning.

    It's like with the temporal relation that is expressed by the conjunction 'and' in natural languages where the order indicates what happen first; even though in formal logic the propositions are equivalent. With the classic example being 'she got pregnant and got married' vs 'she got married and got pregnant.'
    But by what you saying is that there is no difference in possible interpretation, by putting the equality sign between the two sentences.

    Yet my seems to not very well developed language intuition is telling me that the two sentences would have different 'gut','first' interpretation.
    Some cat is feared by every mouse. <=> There exists a cat which is feared by every mouse.
    Every mouse is afraid of some cat. <=> For every mouse, there is some cat that the mouse fears.

    Is the ambiguity very apparent for native speakers ?


    Cheers,
    Last edited by Jaskin; 10-Jun-2014 at 19:36.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 12,310
    #8

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    No, the word order doesn't change the meaning. The ambiguity is whether the "some cat" that every mouse is afraid of is the same cat for all of them.

    1. There exists one cat, a particular cat, that every mouse in existence fears. A million mice all fear the same one cat.

    2. There is a cat that every mouse fears, but not the same cat for every mouse. A million mice fear a million different cats, or a thousand different cats. But each fears at least one.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jun 2010
    • Posts: 24,494
    #9

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    What prompted your question, Jaskin?

    Where did you encounter the very odd sentence 'Some cat is feared by every mouse'.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 524
    #10

    Re: ambiguity, scope

    Hi,

    I'm preparing myself for a few hard reads in philosophy of language, philosophical logic and mathematical logic. I printed a Wiki book 'Logic and metalogic' to have a general overview, and while reading it I followed a link to, in my opinion rather badly written, entry in Wikipedia on the problem of multiple generality. That's where the sentence with 'some cat [..]' comes from.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Jaskin; 11-Jun-2014 at 00:08. Reason: articles, articles never get them right the first time

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 10-Oct-2013, 01:16
  2. space/ scope
    By henz988 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 29-Jul-2012, 17:23
  3. [Grammar] scope of negation
    By Joern Matthias in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 09-Sep-2011, 16:35
  4. scope of negation
    By corum in forum Analysing and Diagramming Sentences
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 24-Apr-2010, 21:50
  5. scope of negation
    By navi tasan in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 30
    Last Post: 14-Jul-2004, 18:48

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •