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OT: The semantics of "Guns don't kill people" (was Re: OT: Helen Keller & Whorf-Sapir)

From:Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>
Date:Saturday, August 14, 2004, 20:00
On Sat, 14 Aug 2004 22:02:39 +0200, Jörg Rhiemeier
<joerg_rhiemeier@...> wrote:

> Translating something into a language that grammaticalizes different > categories sometimes can be quite revealing. For example, English > tends to treat agents and instruments alike, allowing for such > sentences as the NRA slogan "Guns don't kill people". If one > translates this into Old Albic, a language that clearly keeps > agents and instruments apart, one gets (using the Modern Low Elvish > word _arcebus_ to translate `gun'): > > Na amareri arcebysimi cvestim. > not AOR-kill-3PL:P gun-PL-INST person-PL-OBJ > > (There is no way to translate it with _arcebysim_ `guns' as agent, > because the latter is inanimate and has no agentive case at all.) > > This is a patent falsehood, as it means `People are not killed > by means of guns', which even the most die-hard gun nerd must > admit to be false. Where is the mistake? It's in the NRA slogan > that has gone into this little translation exercise.
To take this off topic, and into dangerous territory, that's the whole point of the NRA slogan. Guns have no agentive power. Blaming a gun for killing someone is like blaming a pencil for spelling mistakes. That's what the slogan in full ("Guns don't kill people. People kill people.") actually means. Paul


Mark P. Line <mark@...>The semantics of 'Guns don't kill people' (was Re: OT: Helen Keller & Whorf-Sapir)
Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...>