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".


TGWWS said...

A compelling reading. Especially as you support it by correctly addressing a pet peeve I have concerning one of my favorite carols! (Remember Siegfried in "All Creatures Great and Small" hollering out the window/door about it?)

Belfry Bat said...

I remember hearing about it, though never seeing it happen... and not sure I remembered that it was Siegfried when I wrote the thing, or from whom I heard it (it might even have been you!), but yes, exactly that occasion was what I had in mind.

(Also, noticed recently/again that As You Like It uses the phrase, less "gentlemen", more than once)

Post a Comment