Experts In Meaning Ambiguities

Humana Mente 8 (28) (2015)
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The discrepancy between the theoretical problems experts raise on polysemy, and the ease with which it is everyday understood by speakers, has been defined as the polysemy paradox. The same could be said for other forms of meaning ambiguity in the non-literal side, as for instance metaphor. A sort of metaphor paradox is raised by the fact that metaphor usually goes unnoticed for most people, even though experts claim that it constitutes a theoretical challenge for understanding human thought. In both polysemy and metaphor cases, people’s intuitions clash with experts’ intuitions. Moreover, experts seem to disagree on the very identification criterion of the linguistic phenomena. Deference to experts is anyway important in semantic applications, such as translation, where subtle distinctions in word meaning prove to be not only useful but also essential. However, the apparently wide gap between people’s and experts’ intuitions could be reduced once the paradoxes of meaning ambiguity are explained as a result of semantic underdetermination.



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Francesca Ervas
Universita di Cagliari

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Metaphors we live by.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mark Johnson.
Literal Meaning.François Récanati - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Metaphors We Live By.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Ethics 93 (3):619-621.

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