Author Topic: Does this sentence have two readings?  (Read 416 times)

Offline binumal

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Does this sentence have two readings?
« on: April 01, 2018, 11:13:40 AM »
Here is a sentence from "Lahiri, U., 2017. Binding Theory, Scope Reconstruction, and NPI Licensing Under Scrambling in Hindi. In Perspectives on the Architecture and Acquisition of Syntax (pp. 183-194). Springer, Singapore". The author claims that the sentence has two reading.I cant make out the second reading. can you help me please.                            How many books is John likely to read?        - . Thank in advance                                                                                                                             

Offline Daniel

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Re: Does this sentence have two readings?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2018, 12:57:17 PM »
The readings don't come very naturally for me pragmatically, but I guess the two are:
1. What is the most probable NUMBER of books that John will read?
Context: John has a homework assignment to read 5-10 books and write a report.
2. How many books exist such that John is probably going to read those particular books?
Context: John is very picky about choosing books, and he usually refuses to read all popular books.

The problem for me is that both questions seem to have the same exact numerical answer, as interpreted in context. I can't think of an obvious context where the two answers would differ in a meaningful way.

I suppose you could try to interpret it like this:
John only has time to read three books this year, so he is likely to read three books, but there are a lot of books he wants to read, so for each individual book there are many he is likely to read.
But still, it's very hard to actually get a different numerical answer that is specific to a single context. It would be odd, for example, to say "He's likely to read 10 of the great books I suggested, but he's so busy he's likely to read only 3." I mean, that makes sense abstractly, but seems like a contradiction in actual usage. It would need to be more like a hypothetical versus actual interpretation of "likely to", and that's not a proper ambiguity, because the phrasing would need to be different, e.g., "He'd be likely to.... but he is likely to only...".
« Last Edit: April 01, 2018, 12:58:58 PM by Daniel »
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