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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Post In Which I Only Make Sense To Myself And The Ghost Of Robert Quine, If He's Dead. Is He Dead?


An Open Letter To The Person Who Came To My Webpage Looking For gavagai definition" On Google:



You're new at this, aren't you?

No, really. You want a definition for "gavagai?"

Sigh.

Lemme let you in on a secret. The point of "gavagai" is that there is no definition. Of anything. The gavagai example, of linguists finding a people who point at a rabbit and pronounce it "gavagai." The linguist assumes that means rabbit. But that is merely an assumption, the linguist does not and CANNOT EVER know whether that means "rabbit," or "grey rabbit," or "male rabbit," or "collection of rabbit parts gathered in this moment of time."

Quine called this "radical translation."

Words are judged by the context they're in. We don't know what people mean when they say things. We have to assume, based on the context that they say them in. The definition, in their head, may be different from the definition in your head, whether it's a fictitious foreign language or English.

Searching for a "gavagai definition?" You may as well search for a "married bachelor."




Okay. I'm done being pedantic for now. The search phrase amused me. I wrote about it. It's over.

Badger badger badger.
- Rowan Kaiser, 3:46 PM
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