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By Ofra Magidor

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


classification errors are sentences reminiscent of 'Green rules 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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10, and Carnie (2011), p. 16. g. Bouchard (1995), p. 44, Carnie (2002), p. 7, and Denham & Lobeck (2010) p. 287. 57 Indeed, it is not even obvious that ‘semantic anomaly’ is not sometimes taken to be a species of syntactic ill-formedness. g. van Valin (2001), p. 87, Carnie (2002) p. 7. See also Chapter 2 below, for a brief discussion of the potential relevance of more contemporary syntactic theories of argument realization to the topic. 19 INTRODUCTION The idea is that predicative lexical items impose certain restrictions (‘selectional restrictions’), which restrict the kinds of arguments they accept in certain positions.

80, and Sauerland & von Stechow (2001), p. 15413. 7 For a helpful discussion of this issue see Parsons (1995). 8 To put things otherwise, we cannot describe an eating event in which John is the agent and the apple is the theme using the sentence ‘The apple ate John’. While this observation might seem at a first glance to be relevant to a syntactic analysis of category mistakes, it is far from clear that it is. Contemporary syntactic theory may well play a crucial role in ruling out a potential reading of ‘The apple ate John’ in which the sentence means that John ate the apple, but, crucially, this is not a reading where the sentence is interpreted as a category mistake.

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. 24–7). Chomsky’s original gloss on this further requirement is that the grammar would be psychologically and biologically real, in particular in a way that would explain how language acquisition is possible.

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