semantic pathology spotted in the wild

Perhaps the most famous instance of a sentence that exhibits semantic pathology is the Liar: 'This sentence is false'; if the 'this' strikes you as problematic --

(1) (1) is false.

But there are many other types of semantic pathology, such as the 'heterological' paradox and the so-called 'truth-teller': 'This sentence is true.' My colleague James Woodbridge is doing a lot of interesting research in this area; check out his work if you are interested.

This is not a serious post about semantic pathology, but rather just a field report. I sometimes wonder whether these examples like the truth-teller are all that important, since it's hard to imagine circumstances under which speakers might utter it. But I think I may have found a couple of instances of something akin to the truth-teller "in the wild":

(i) A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Spamalot, the musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. One of the songs contained (something close to) the following line: "This is the song that goes like this."

(ii) In the instructions for the Pennsylvania state tax forms, I found (something like) the following:

"You are eligible for the Tax Forgiveness credit if you meet the following requirements:

1. ...
2. ...
3. You meet the eligibility requirements for the Tax Forgiveness Credit.
4. ..."



At 2/4/07, Blogger N. N. said...

The second example is brilliant. Leave it to the bureacrats to add paradox to the tax code (as if it wasn't already incomprehensible).

As for the first, I'm suspicious as to whether this species is really wild. I believe some of the Monty Python gang have BAs in philosophy.

At 2/5/07, Blogger Enigman said...

Something like a Liar in this poem.

At 30/5/07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of an Ani DiFranco lyric:

"In walked a man
shaped like a man,
wearing a hat-shaped hat."


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