re: Your Interpretation On This Statement.page 5

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Hello, this would be my first post.

I am studying in Hong Kong. In our Elements of Logic and Critical Thinking class, we are having different interpretations on an English statement. I would be grateful if you would share your ideas.

We were given the following statement:

1. People being admitted to Hong Kong University are not restricted to local students.

We were asked to convert this statement into a categorical proposition, which is a standard form of a proposition in logic. The lecturer's answer was:

2. Some people being admitted to Hong Kong University are non-local students.

The reason we think his answer was wrong is that, the second statement means that there is at least one non-local student. However, the first statement only said that the admitted students are not restricted to local ones, there do not have to be at least one non-local one.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Say HKU admitted 10 students this year, all 10 of them are local students. The fact that the admitted students "are not restricted to local students" still holds true. However, the second statement implies that there is at least one student who is not local, and thus the contradiction as all admitted students are local.

Our lecturer thinks otherwise, he believes that the first statement should be interpreted as "there is at least one non local student".

We are not trying to challenge the lecturer. After a discussion with him, we were not able to come up with a conclusion. As English is not our first language in Hong Kong, we cannot be certain on our views. He advised us to consult English teachers. It would be the best if you would advise whether:

a) Understanding the first statement as "the admitted students are not restricted to non-local students, and there do not necessarily have to be at least one non-local student, as all of them could be local ones" be correct.

and b) Understanding the first statement as "there must be at least one admitted student who is a non-local" be wrong.

Your help is much appreciated. Thank you
Forbes and Calif Jim are entirely missing the point. The only reason the question would arise is that the initial sentence is bad English. If restricted does not refer to laws then clearly in both initial examples there is indeed one person present. That is what caused the confusion so it is a question concerning the use of "restricted". All the venn diagrams etc are a perfect waste of time. The word restricted usually refers to laws, so we cannot be clear if it refers to a law in the initial example, or if it does not. Thus the question is unclear, it is a silly question which will lead to a linguistic dispute, and the question should not be thus phrased. That is what Clive said, in a less salty way, and that was enough said.
AnonymousI said "wherever it might be talking about rules". I didn't say they were. However if the sentence seems to allow that possibility, then rules are what people will assume it refers to.

That is the very reason that the initial sentence represents poor English. Why do you think the original sentence is poor English?
I don't quite understand what you said, so I can only respond to what I assume what you said.

>> I said "wherever it might be talking about rules". I didn't say they were.

I didn't say you said they were. However, I don't think any of the above examples "might be talking about rules." The context didn't allow for such a possibility. Even when taken out of context, the sentences themselves did not seem to suggest such a possibility.

>> However if the sentence seems to allow that possibility, then rules are what people will assume it refers to.

Why do you say so? Who are these "people? Every living human being on this planet? Or a specific group of people?

Your sentence seems to have a big logical gap between "allow that possibility" and "what people will assume it refers to". I can't see any logical relationship between these two.

Instead of allowing the meaning (just one possible meaning) of one single word to dictate the meaning of the whole sentence, I would rather try to get to the meaning of that word by looking at the whole sentence.

>> That is the very reason that the initial sentence represents poor English.

That sentence certainly can't "represent" poor English. There are so many different way poor English can be written, one sentence just couldn't possibly "represent" all of them. Really sorry for picking you up on your English, I really hate to do that, but since you have been going to great lengths to clarify the meaning of the word "restricted", I think you also have to apply this strictness to your own language in order to make yourself clear, otherwise, it would just add to the confusion.

>> Why do you think the original sentence is poor English?

Just open any good English dictionary.

Did I really say the statement is written in poor English?

Another exercise on logic:

A: The statement is not written in good English.
B: The statement is written in bad English.

Are the two statements above equivalent?

Pter
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Jon SaltForbes and Calif Jim are entirely missing the point. The only reason the question would arise is that the initial sentence is bad English. If restricted does not refer to laws then clearly in both initial examples there is indeed one person present. That is what caused the confusion so it is a question concerning the use of "restricted". All the venn diagrams etc are a perfect waste of time. The word restricted usually refers to laws, so we cannot be clear if it refers to a law in the initial example, or if it does not. Thus the question is unclear, it is a silly question which will lead to a linguistic dispute, and the question should not be thus phrased. That is what Clive said, in a less salty way, and that was enough said.
Not really. The question is concerning the use (or misuse) of the word restricted when talking about "People being admitted". There is a subtle difference in meaning when the word "restricted" is referring to the individual elements of the set/class (as a rule or law or whatever you call it) when compared with referring to the set/class as a whole (as a descriptive statement on what actually happened). That's why Forbes has been patiently explaining the difference.

It seems that everyone, including you, agrees that the problem is with the word "restricted", rather than the use of "being admitted". Given that we all understand there are some problems in the sentence, we would naturally compensate for this inaccurate use of language by making assumptions. If we assume the word "restricted" is used correctly, the conclusion is either that "being admitted" is wrong (which I think is very unlikely) or "people being admitted" are a pool of resources (which is absurd).

It is very easy to get into such situations when we try to translate an English sentence into predicate logic. Many of the things we say everyday are strictly speaking illogical when scrutinized by a logician. That's why there are critically thinking classes. Or perhaps, all of us are just silly, talking nonsense everyday. If we try to convert everything into predicate logic, I am afraid we have to throw away most of the Englsh literature that have ever been written.

To make the whole exercise fruitful, students in logic should not jump to the conclusion and apply what they learnt mechanically when converting sentences from one form to the other without even clarifying what the sentence actually means in the first place.

Pter
However you want to express the idea, the OP's initial example sentence isn't good English.

I am an educated native speaker, and IMAO there is no problem with saying something "represents" poor English, this kind of usage - meaning "an example of" - is common. There would, however, be a problem if there was some way in which the more usual meaning of "represent" could be understood, and if this would cause confusion.

This is why we have seen a misuse of "restrict", because a sentence which is to form the basis for a logical problem ought to have a meaning which is expressed as clearly as possible. Granted, language is often ambiguous, but not every sentence has two obvious possible interpretations.
Jon SaltI am an educated native speaker, and IMAO there is no problem with saying something "represents" poor English, this kind of usage - meaning "an example of" - is common. There would, however, be a problem if there was some way in which the more usual meaning of "represent" could be understood, and if this would cause confusion.

Thank you very much for pointing this out. I certainly interpreted that differently when I looked at that sentence.

Just checked my dictionary and it gives me 16 different meanings/usages of the word "represent". One of the entry is
"to serve as an example or specimen of; exemplify"
This is the only entry that is similar in meaning to "be an example of". However, "to serve as an example" has a different shade of meaning from "be an example of". For something to serve as an example, it needs to carry certain characteristics to make it representative of the class it is representing. Well, I am not a native speaker, I certainly wouldn't doubt your usage of English, but "to serve as an example" is what I have always understood the word "represent" in such a sentence. Please correct me if I interpreted it incorrectly and I am more than happy to learn how it is used in real life.
Jon SaltThis is why we have seen a misuse of "restrict", because a sentence which is to form the basis for a logical problem ought to have a meaning which is expressed as clearly as possible. Granted, language is often ambiguous, but not every sentence has two obvious possible interpretations.
I think it depends on the purpose of the exercise. A very important step (if not the most important step) is to clarify what the sentence actually or possibly means. Concepts would be clarified through the process of debating with each other.

Pter

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Forbes and Calif Jim are entirely missing the point.
Not at all. The point was to explain the teacher's answer to the logic problem, so that the logic student could understand why his own answer was not accepted as correct. That explanation hinges on the teacher's interpretation of the problem, the student's interpretation, and how the two differ. I think Forbes did a good job in providing that explanation. He showed the OP how to interpret the question as the teacher did in order to arrive at the same answer the teacher arrived at. (My part in it was a minor quibble about something Forbes said. It doesn't detract at all from his reasoning.)

The claim that the problem is stated in bad English doesn't explain to the OP how the teacher arrived at the answer. It provides some sympathy for the student for not answering correctly ("Don't worry about getting the wrong answer. It was a badly written question. It's all the teacher's fault."), but other than that, what does it explain, really?

CJ
I'm sorry I haven't followed this thread for some time. I'll read through all the posts when most of my exams are over. Thank you all for your inputs.

I understand why the lecturer's interpretation is correct. However, I do not know what prevents me from understanding the statement as a policy.
WinsonliI understand why the lecturer's interpretation is correct. However, I do not know what prevents me from understanding the statement as a policy.
People being admitted to Hong Kong University are not restricted to local students.

The difference will hopefully become clearer if the statement is put between other statements:

I have looked at the rules concerning admittance to Hong Kong University and they say that only local students may be admitted. On investigation I find that people being admitted to Hong Kong University are not restricted to local students. Clearly the rules are not being applied.
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Jon SaltForbes and Calif Jim are entirely missing the point.
Winsonli was in a class of "Elements of Logic and Critical Thinking" and the problem was how to convert:

People being admitted to Hong Kong University are not restricted to local students.

into a categorical proposition.

The question was not:

1. One of grammar i.e. whether the sentence conforms to the generally accepted canons of standard written English.

2. One of style i.e. whether the sentence could have been more elegantly phrased.

3. One of semantics i.e. an enquiry into what the sentence as a whole means.

Rather it was a question asking how the statement can be recast in a form that shows clearly how the terms people being admitted to Hong Kong University and local students relate to each other. This does involve a semantic element as you need to consider what are not restricted to means, but over all the question is concerned with form rather than meaning.