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By Ofra Magidor

Class errors are sentences akin to 'Green principles sleep furiously' or 'Saturday is in bed'. They strike us as hugely infelicitous however it is tough to provide an explanation for accurately why this is often so. Ofra Magidor explores 4 ways to type error in philosophy of language and linguistics, and develops and defends an unique, presuppositional account.


type error are sentences akin to 'Green principles sleep furiously' or 'Saturday is in bed'. They strike us as hugely infelicitous however it is difficult to give an explanation for accurately why this is often so. Ofra Magidor Read more...

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Example text

When (23) is uttered in a context where it is clear that Jane is thinking about a book, the utterance is perfectly acceptable. But relative to a context in which it is known that Jane is thinking about a number, (23) would be deemed to be a category mistake. Similarly, (24) would be perfectly acceptable when uttered in a context where it is clear that John’s best friend is a woman, but not so in one where it is well-known that John’s best friend is a man. Thus at least in some contexts, (23) and (24) constitute category mistakes.

21) may sound highly infelicitous, until one realizes that this woman may have previously been a man who fathered my children, and then went on to have a sex-change operation. 32 One might argue that (20)–(22) are not really category mistakes: rather, some erroneously judge them to be category mistakes because they lack the relevant empirical information. This proposal has some serious disadvantages (for one thing, it divorces the notion of a category mistake from the phenomenological quality that was used to characterise the phenomenon in the first place).

Even if syntax should be as simple as possible it may be impossible to devise an adequate syntactic theory unless it deems category mistakes to be ungrammatical. e. by a semantic or a pragmatic theory. So while removing the burden of accounting for category mistakes from syntax would certainly simplify syntax, it is 12 Thomason (1972), p. 211. Even this formulation is too crude, because it requires only what Chomsky has called ‘a descriptively adequate grammar’. But Chomsky places a further desideratum on grammar: that it be ‘explanatorily adequate’ (See Chomsky (1965), pp.

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