Tuesday, July 12, 2016

An old classic.

And the goode wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the merchaƩt was angry. for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges; and she understode hym not
Circa 1490. Lower third of the image in this charming page. (I still wonder: why French?)

I'm pretty sure it was somewhere around St Pod's that I first heard this tale; it is a fun one!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Most Human Languages are not Associative.

(which I have also mentioned in the book of faces, today)

That is, semantics depends strongly on syntax, and especially on implicit bracketing.

Consider the two sentences, one of which will sound odd (almost as if it wasn't spoken in English!) and one of which will sound insane.

1) Because of this [wrong understanding], (most (sacramental marriages)) are (null).
2) Because of this [wrong understanding] most (sacramental marriages are null).

Note that most people can't reliably articulate or discern comma. Note that appart from parenthesis, the same words are present in both sentences. Try to find the main verb in the second sentence: it is actually absent; "sacramental marriages [ ] null" is a noun (an interrupted noun) in the second sentence.

What the first sentence suggests is that almost all the world is living a lie—and heaps of people have (reasonably-enough) asked things like "how would we know?". What the second sentence suggests is that there's a strong trend among those tribunals that find nullity. And... you know what, of course that's perfectly reasonable. And certainly the Pope, of all people, ought to know it.

Sentence 2, the one translated from what the Holy Father said in his Q-and-A, doesn't look like English because it wasn't spoken in English by an English speaker. To be sure it has been translated badly, perhaps because the translator thought he'd heard sentence 1. To be sure, His Holiness could have mentioned "tribunal" and "finding" and all that, (not to mention how a marriage cannot be null if it is sacramental, because if it is null, then also it is nothing else), ... but that's no reason to work your parsing of him (in translation!) on the assumption that he's off his rocker or any such.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", not "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen".