David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (6):553-581 (2009)
Category mistakes are sentences such as ‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’ or ‘The theory of relativity is eating breakfast’. Such sentences are highly anomalous, and this has led a large number of linguists and philosophers to conclude that they are meaningless (call this ‘the meaninglessness view’). In this paper I argue that the meaninglessness view is incorrect and category mistakes are meaningful. I provide four arguments against the meaninglessness view: in Sect. 2, an argument concerning compositionality with respect to category mistakes; in Sect. 3 an argument concerning synonymy facts of category mistakes; in Sect. 4 concerning embeddings of category mistakes in propositional attitude ascriptions; and in Sect. 5 concerning the uses of category mistakes in metaphors. Having presented these arguments, in Sect. 6 I briefly discuss some of the positive motivations for accepting the meaninglessness view and argue that they are unconvincing. I conclude that the meaninglessness view ought to be rejected.
|Keywords||Category mistakes Selectional restrictions Selectional violations Compositionality Semantics Foundations of semantics Montague Grammar Type theoretic semantics Colorless green ideas sleep furiously Meaning Meaningfulness Meaninglessness Nonsense|
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References found in this work BETA
Timothy Williamson (1994). Vagueness. Routledge.
Gareth Evans (1982). Varieties of Reference. Oxford University Press.
Noam Chomsky (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. The MIT Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Ofra Magidor (forthcoming). Category Mistakes and Figurative Language. Philosophical Studies.
Herman Cappelen (2013). Nonsense and Illusions of Thought. Philosophical Perspectives 27 (1):22-50.
Ofra Magidor (2011). Arguments by Leibniz’s Law in Metaphysics. Philosophy Compass 6 (3):180-195.
Terence Rajivan Edward (2011). Are There Uncontroversial Error Theories? Philosophical Pathways (162).
Hans-Johann Glock (2015). Nonsense Made Intelligible. Erkenntnis 80 (1):111-136.
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