[hist-analytic] Haas on meaning and translation

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Sep 28 11:56:49 EDT 2009

In a message dated 9/25/2009 5:28:07 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
rbj at rbjones.com writes:

it is  possible that some sentence may have a translation
which has the same  number of words, so we might then imagine 
incorrectly that the number of  words in the sentence is part
of its meaning.
For something to be part  of the meaning it would have to be
common to all translations, and that  would probably have to
include into possible languages as well as actual  languages.

However, this seems to me to be less profound (or  useful)
than you might imagine.
Its really just an odd way of saying  that translation is
a mapping between languages which preserves  meaning.
Neither of these ways of talking about the relationship
between  meaing and translation really helps a great deal
in understanding  semantics.

----- I don't have the reference to hand, but I recall from browing (even  
reading, bah) Parkinson, The Theories of Meaning (Warnock, Readers in  
Philosophy, Oxford) that there is this essay (possibly PAS symposium with at  
least Haas, from Manchester) on translation and meaning, which I found naive in 
 a Mancunian sort of way.
R. B. Jones is right about possibly more than just meaning that two  
utterances share. Also we should consider what Grice jocularly calls timeless  
meaning (a category mistake if ever there was one, as if meaning and time would 
 overlap!). It's only with timeless meaning of a TYPE that perhaps Russell 
was  interested in.

In meaning of utterer's tokens, surely elements which are not part of  what 
is meant timelessly may and should be kept in translation. I'm speaking  
loosely --. I recall a conference I gave in Buenos Aires.
   "I haven't been mugged yet"
(Searle was in attendance). My point was that that possibly means, "Buenos  
Aires is not as not dangerous as you may think it should be):

At the congress:
How do you  like Buenos Aires?
Oh,  it's fantastic; the  architecture is so palladial, the people are 
friendly in a sort of soft Italian  way, and I haven't been mugged yet.
Provided there IS an implicature to that (Alchourron, who attended the  
conference, denied that: Having been exiled in Stockholm for ages, he added,  
"Then you CAN always get mugged in Stockholm, too"), we would have:
  "I haven't been mugged yet"   --->   "Buenos  Aires is potentially 
Cfr. Grice, "He hasn't been to prison yet"
    A: How is Smith getting on in his new job at the  bank?
B: Oh, just fine; he likes his colleagues and he  hasn't been to prison yet 
(Grice 1967)
   (Smith is potentially dishonest, but aren't we all? -- cfr.  This glass 
is breakable as funkily dispositional).
Now, suppose we translate "I haven't been mugged" to Japanese. If we FAIL  
to convey the implicature, then just fine, for it's not part of the  meaning.
In a serious lecture at Yale I attended with Tim Williamson on philosophy  
of language, I was amused that he dedicated the whole appointed time to the  
semantic of pejoratives (what he called 'colouring'). "Bog" is a word I 
think he  used. Cfr. Frege was a Hun.
has possibly some derogatory side to it. For one, Germans are NOT Huns. Now 
 if we get that into Japanese as a clean translation of "Frege is a German" 
 without the derogatory side to it, it's translation getting lost with the 
baby  in the tub water, as the Anglo says.
People tell me, "You should get offended by Brits calling Argentines  
argies", but forgive me, I don't! I just see it as an affectionate diminutive  
(cfr. Brit). Now, the n- word, in USA, is another matter. So, insults, slurs,  
gossip, politeness issues (cfr. French "Tu" versus "Vous" as conventional  
implicature) all should get a say in translation (even if it's not part of 
what  is SAID). Which leaves the Lord of Monmouthshire (Russell) as 
aristocratically  naive!
J L Speranza

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