Author Topic: He walked to the School-  (Read 180 times)

Offline mallu

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 136
  • Country: in
He walked to the School-
« on: June 28, 2020, 12:11:01 AM »
Hi Everyone,   Does the meaning of the following sentence entails.He reached the School.   # He walked to the School . Many Thanks in advance
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 12:19:37 AM by mallu »

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2020, 02:53:08 AM »
They're distinct. Neither entails the other.

"He walked to (the) school" means "toward" in a vague sense, although it is strongly implied he arrived.

("He reached the school" doesn't entail walking, but any means. But I think you were intending to ask about the other relationship.)
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline mallu

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 136
  • Country: in
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2020, 05:53:42 AM »
MANY THANKS DANIELYes, I used the term entails incorrectly.  - Would the term implicature fit? Anyway,  You said the sentence  implies he reached the school. Now I would like to know that is this a general tendency in languages  to interpret walked + goal to interpret  this way, how about Spanish, French etc.

Offline panini

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 190
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2020, 02:14:16 PM »
I think it depends on the options for "to". If you say "He walked towards school", that implies that he didn't get all the way there. If a language has only a generalized case marker for directional, then I expect that there's no implication of reaching vs. not reaching, but we have "to" vs. "towards", and Bantu languages often have a vague goal marker versus something more specific like "up to", "arriving at" (but also "x-wards") so there is room for conventionalized implication.

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2020, 03:58:21 PM »
Yes, I agree: there's an implicature of reaching the goal, and I'd guess that in general the typical assumption in such usage cross-linguistically is that the goal was met, allowing for of course variation in translations of "to" (prepositions are notoriously subtly distinct in different languages). But I think this is more pragmatic than linguistic: when we attempt to go places, we usually reach them, so by the principle of informativeness, it is assumed that there was no problem reaching it unless the form of the sentence expresses something to indicate otherwise (like "I tried to go", implying that by saying "tried" I probably didn't succeed). Languages lexicalize and grammaticalize movement differently (look up research on Talmy's typology of motion verbs, for example), but to the degree that languages are like English, they're probably often like English in this way too.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline Forbes

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 29
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2020, 04:00:33 AM »
It looks like there is a bit of difference between US and English English here.

In English English "He walked to the school" means he got there - perhaps not right up to the front door, but definitely to a position in the street where if he stopped walking he would be standing just outside the school or its grounds, or if on the other side of the road would be opposite it. "He walked to school" tells you he got there and then went inside to teach or be educated. Also, a parent might say: "I walked to school with my son" if he took his son to school to be educated, but if they just went for a walk and got as far as the school he would say: "I walked to the school with my son".

Offline panini

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 190
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2020, 08:14:29 AM »
So in your dialect, can you say "When I walked to school yesterday, they blocked the main road with construction and I got lost going around it, so I ended up at the zoo and decided to play hooky instead"?

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2020, 03:22:19 PM »
It certainly has that default interpretation for me too, and if the attempt was not successful, then "I was walking to school" would probably be used. But I think "I walked to school" can be used in a similar way in casual speech when precision is not important and context clarifies the meaning. But you may be right that it "should" indicate success, whatever "should" means for language usage!

There's also a question about what "success" means here. For example, this seems natural to me: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, only to find that it had been teleported off the planet by aliens." Arguably I stilled arrived at the original location of the school, but it was gone. An interruption halfway there is less clear to me: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, only to realize that I had forgotten my backpack and had to return home". There the strong implication is that I actually arrived all the way at the school and had to walk all the way back, but probably in part because of context. Compare: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, but I got lost." That context clarifies that the attempt was definitely unsuccessful (unless further clarified that I then found my way again). But maybe that's because "walk to school" is a habitual action rather than a novel form? So what about "I walked to the new place, but I got lost on the way" -- that does sound strange, and "was walking" would be preferred, I think.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 03:26:37 PM by Daniel »
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline Forbes

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 29
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2020, 01:11:44 AM »
It certainly has that default interpretation for me too, and if the attempt was not successful, then "I was walking to school" would probably be used. But I think "I walked to school" can be used in a similar way in casual speech when precision is not important and context clarifies the meaning. But you may be right that it "should" indicate success, whatever "should" means for language usage!

There's also a question about what "success" means here. For example, this seems natural to me: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, only to find that it had been teleported off the planet by aliens." Arguably I stilled arrived at the original location of the school, but it was gone. An interruption halfway there is less clear to me: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, only to realize that I had forgotten my backpack and had to return home". There the strong implication is that I actually arrived all the way at the school and had to walk all the way back, but probably in part because of context. Compare: "This morning I woke up, then I walked to school, but I got lost." That context clarifies that the attempt was definitely unsuccessful (unless further clarified that I then found my way again). But maybe that's because "walk to school" is a habitual action rather than a novel form? So what about "I walked to the new place, but I got lost on the way" -- that does sound strange, and "was walking" would be preferred, I think.

Some interesting examples get thrown up when you think things through! I think the distinction is that in "I walked to the school" you are considering the school primarily as a location, but in "I walked to school" you are considering it primarily as an educational institution.

Whilst not exactly the same, in English English we make a similar distinction between "in hospital" and "in the hospital". "In hospital" means you are an in-patient, whilst "in the hospital" means you just happen to be in the hospital building, including as an out-patient.

Offline Forbes

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 29
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2020, 01:18:44 AM »
So in your dialect, can you say "When I walked to school yesterday, they blocked the main road with construction and I got lost going around it, so I ended up at the zoo and decided to play hooky instead"?

Yes, except we say "play truant", or more colloquially, "bunk off" instead of "play hooky".

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2020, 02:12:15 AM »
Quote
Some interesting examples get thrown up when you think things through!
Yes, and I admit my intuitions are getting a bit fuzzy from overthinking this.
Quote
I think the distinction is that in "I walked to the school" you are considering the school primarily as a location, but in "I walked to school" you are considering it primarily as an educational institution.
I didn't intend to emphasize that distinction. Yes, there is a distinction (referring to a place, versus a typical location for learning: "I walked to school" means "my school" approximately, where I study), but that's not relevant I don't think to the question of success/arrival here.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline Rock100

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 51
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2020, 03:30:10 AM »
>>> In English English "He walked to the school" means he got there – perhaps
>>> not right up to the front door, but definitely to a position in the street where
>>> if he stopped walking he would be standing just outside the school or its
>>> grounds, or if on the other side of the road would be opposite it.
>> So in your dialect, can you say "When I walked to school yesterday,
>> they blocked the main road with construction and I got lost going around
>> it, so I ended up at the zoo and decided to play hooky instead"?
> Yes, except we say "play truant", or more colloquially, "bunk off" instead
> of "play hooky".
Sorry, I am afraid you may not have both. You either get there or can say that you may disappear on your way and do not reach the place.

> but in "I walked to school" you are considering it primarily as an educational
> institution.
May you really say “walk to school” and mean an educational institution? I was dead sure that natives walk to a physical place only and “go to school” if they need to say they attend it. In other words, I have thought that you “go to (the) school” whether it is a concrete place or an institution but you can walk to a concrete place/school only. I.e. you cannot “walk to the School of Woodwork” you “go to the School of Woodwork” if you mean you attend it.


Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2020, 05:47:06 AM »


Quote
May you really say “walk to school” and mean an educational institution? I was dead sure that natives walk to a physical place only and “go to school” if they need to say they attend it. In other words, I have thought that you “go to (the) school” whether it is a concrete place or an institution but you can walk to a concrete place/school only. I.e. you cannot “walk to the School of Woodwork” you “go to the School of Woodwork” if you mean you attend it.
You are correct but misinterpreted the intended distinction. It was "go to school" vs. "go to the school", where the meaning is about going to a physical place ("a school, that school"), versus (physically) going to their place of learning. The distinction is very subtle, and almost equivalent in most circumstances. Roughly "I went to school" means "I went to the school that I attend". That's unrelated to the other meaning of "I attend school" as in "I go to school" where no movement is indicated.

Quote
Sorry, I am afraid you may not have both. You either get there or can say that you may disappear on your way and do not reach the place.
As I said, my intuitions are getting fuzzy now, but I'm not certain you're correct. It might be the case that "to" actually does assert arrival, but that often usage of motion constructions might not assert completion of that motion. In the very simple utterance "I walked to the school", it's very hard to imagine any other interpretation. But in a context like "While I walked to the school", that's where it becomes easier to interpret that something interrupted the arrival. So I'm not 100% confident in my original reply to this question (beginning of this discussion, my first post), but I know that the arrival can in some cases be violated, but I'm not sure exactly what it is. I'd think about it more, but as I said already my intuitions are getting fuzzier, having thought about it too much. My first instinct was a strong implicature, and that's probably right, but it could be a distinct issue of telicity violations in certain contexts, maybe unrelated to the lexical meaning of "to". Someone must have written a paper about this somewhere...
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline panini

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 190
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2020, 08:09:59 AM »
Yes, except we say "play truant", or more colloquially, "bunk off" instead of "play hooky".
Okay, so the point is that this is a test for literal entailment versus pragmatic implicature. If it were part of the literal semantics of "to" plus verb of motion that you have to reach the goal, then that sentence should be meaningless. Since it is not, that is evidence that the meaning "and reached the goal" is defeasibly inferred – it's pragmatics, not literal semantics. And thus UK and US English are not linguistically different. Even over here, if we wanted to say that we walked in that direction but didn't actually get there, we would say "towards", "in the direction of" or something like that. Thus "to" implies arrival, but does not entail is.


Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: He walked to the School-
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2020, 08:34:36 AM »
Panini, I agree with everything you said, except that my intuitions are fuzzy now. Is it really defeasibly inferred?
I walked to the school, but I didn't get there.

That seems very odd to me! But it's not entailed in other contexts (see above). Is there a reason for that? Is it sometimes entailed and not others? Or is there some sort of very strong implicature that seems to not be easily violable here?

Even in the right context it's odd:
"My school was destroyed in an earthquake that split my city into two separate land masses. Sometimes I forget about that in the morning, and I will walk to school, but I can't get across the ocean."
Except in the loose interpretation as roughly "I start walking to school", that really doesn't seem right. It's hard to think of a context where it does, except when there is a morphosyntactic change like a subordinate clause or progressive aspect.

Or something more natural:
I walked to school this morning, but on the way my friend gave me a ride.
That seems marginally possible in loose/sloppy usage where "starting walking" is implied, but I have trouble with it literally.

Notice that the sloppy reading goes away in less typical collocations:
#I walked to the planetarium, but then my friend gave me a ride.

It seems that "walk to (the) school" may describe a habitual action with a specific intent, so you can partake in that activity because it's familiar and you can simulate it even without success. But going elsewhere, the semantics seems to break down.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.