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Old 03-21-2011, 11:49 PM
Tom Horsley
 
Default Begs the question

>From "Right to Die":

Whipple: "They think it has a basis, but it hasn't."

Wolfe: "That begs the question. I'll try again.
Why do they think it has a basis?"

Whipple: "Because I was there. Because she and I -
we were friends. Because she was white
and I'm black. Because of the billy,
the club that killed her."

Apparently Nero Wolfe is willing to make contact with
the expression "begs the question" :-).
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Old 03-22-2011, 02:37 AM
Joe Zeff
 
Default Begs the question

On 03/21/2011 05:49 PM, Tom Horsley wrote:
> Apparently Nero Wolfe is willing to make contact with
> the expression "begs the question" :-).

If you read it carefully, you'll see that he's not misusing it; he's
pointing out that whoever Whipple is referring to as "they" are assuming
that "it has a basis" without evidence. If he were misusing it, he'd
have said, "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"
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Old 03-22-2011, 09:34 AM
Marko Vojinovic
 
Default Begs the question

On Tuesday 22 March 2011 03:37:15 Joe Zeff wrote:
> On 03/21/2011 05:49 PM, Tom Horsley wrote:
> > Apparently Nero Wolfe is willing to make contact with
> > the expression "begs the question" :-).
>
> If you read it carefully, you'll see that he's not misusing it; he's
> pointing out that whoever Whipple is referring to as "they" are assuming
> that "it has a basis" without evidence. If he were misusing it, he'd
> have said, "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"

Now you've got me curious about this. :-)

If I understand correctly, you say that the original quote (that Tom Horsly
gave)

"That begs the question. I'll try again. Why do they think it has a basis?"

is correct usage, while

"That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"

is incorrect. If I assume that the "I'll try again." sentence in the middle is
irrelevant in this context, the only difference I see is comma vs. period.

So, all in all, are you actually complaining about punctuation usage?

As English is not my native language, I tend to understand the meaning more
from the context than from the syntax, so pardon my ignorance in this. Can you
explain why is the period-sentence correct while the comma-sentence is
incorrect?

The way I see it, both sentences convey the same meaning, and I don't
understand why the usage of comma over a period in this case makes the
statement wrong. This may be some subtlety of English that I am not aware of,
so I'd be grateful for an explanation. :-)

Best, :-)
Marko

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Old 03-22-2011, 11:41 AM
Tim
 
Default Begs the question

On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 10:34 +0000, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> "That begs the question. I'll try again. Why do they think it has a
> basis?"
>
> is correct usage, while
>
> "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"
>
> is incorrect. If I assume that the "I'll try again." sentence in the
> middle is irrelevant in this context, the only difference I see is
> comma vs. period.
>
> So, all in all, are you actually complaining about punctuation usage?
>
> As English is not my native language, I tend to understand the meaning
> more from the context than from the syntax, so pardon my ignorance in
> this. Can you explain why is the period-sentence correct while the
> comma-sentence is incorrect?

Ignoring anything do with what "begs the question" means, or doesn't
mean. The first sample quotation has two statements, and a separate
question. The second one has what should be a separate phase lumped in
with a question, when they shouldn't be combined.

i.e. The bit that it starts off with "That begs the question" isn't a
question, nor any part of a question, so it shouldn't be in a sentence
that's a question.

On the other hand, it could have been correctly written as:

"That begs the question, 'Way do they think it has a basis?'"

(Someone said "That begs the question," and then stated what the
question was.)

It's a bit like bracketing in maths. Perhaps more obvious, when you
look at some other languages, where they have the upside down question
mark in front of the start of a question, as well as a question mark at
the end.

e.g. "That begs the question. I'll try again. Why do they think it has
a basis?"

Now it's very clear which parts of that speech are statements, and which
parts are questions.

It's just basic grammar, and doesn't even have to be about questions.
When you're writing, properly, there are things that you break apart
into separate sentences, and other's that are just clauses within the
same sentence.

Grammar's a fun thing, especially with the English language. For
instance, in this sentence:

"We went to school, we wrote in our books, we had lunch."

Did we go to school, and write in our books, and have lunch? Or did we
go to school, and write "we had lunch" into our books?

If that had been written as three separate sentences, we'd know for
sure.

.... It must be a slow news day.
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[tim@localhost ~]$ uname -r
2.6.27.25-78.2.56.fc9.i686

Don't send private replies to my address, the mailbox is ignored. I
read messages from the public lists.



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Old 03-22-2011, 11:43 AM
Tim
 
Default Begs the question

On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 10:34 +0000, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"


Or, if you want a less wordy answer:

The words "That begs the question" are not part of the question that's
being asked (why do they think it has a basis?). The question has to be
written all by its lonesome.

--
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Don't send private replies to my address, the mailbox is ignored. I
read messages from the public lists.



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Old 03-22-2011, 12:17 PM
Patrick O'Callaghan
 
Default Begs the question

On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 23:13 +1030, Tim wrote:
> On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 10:34 +0000, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> > "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"
>
>
> Or, if you want a less wordy answer:
>
> The words "That begs the question" are not part of the question that's
> being asked (why do they think it has a basis?). The question has to be
> written all by its lonesome.

Even more OT: since we're talking about English grammar and orthography,
there are certain errors that tend to crop up on this list (and on
others of course), to wit:

1) This looks like an error?
2) How do I do this.

Sadly, they are often committed by those who would seem to be native
English speakers. People, informality is fine and I have no problem with
it, but a question in written English has to be grammatically structured
as a question and not a statement (error 1) and *must* conclude with a
'?' (error 2). Neither of these is optional, e.g. you can't convert a
statement to a question merely by sticking a '?' on the end. So the
correct forms of the above would be:

1) Does this look like an error?
2) How do I do this?

Just thought I'd get that off my chest :-)

poc

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Old 03-22-2011, 12:54 PM
Ed Greshko
 
Default Begs the question

On 03/22/2011 09:17 PM, Patrick O'Callaghan wrote:
> Even more OT: since we're talking about English grammar and orthography,
> there are certain errors that tend to crop up on this list (and on
> others of course), to wit:
>
> 1) This looks like an error?
> 2) How do I do this.
>
> Sadly, they are often committed by those who would seem to be native
> English speakers. People, informality is fine and I have no problem with
> it, but a question in written English has to be grammatically structured
> as a question and not a statement (error 1) and *must* conclude with a
> '?' (error 2). Neither of these is optional, e.g. you can't convert a
> statement to a question merely by sticking a '?' on the end. So the
> correct forms of the above would be:
>
> 1) Does this look like an error?
> 2) How do I do this?

When viewed as single sentences what you've said makes sense.

However, when viewed as part of a larger piece of work the sentence
"This looks like an error?" may indeed be just fine and dandy. It
would be a shorten form of "This looks like an error to you?" where the
"to you" is implied by the broader context of the larger work.



--
Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is
not original and the part that is original is not good. -- Samuel
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Old 03-22-2011, 01:18 PM
Joe Zeff
 
Default Begs the question

On 03/22/2011 03:34 AM, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> If I assume that the "I'll try again." sentence in the middle is
> irrelevant in this context, the only difference I see is comma vs. period.
>
> So, all in all, are you actually complaining about punctuation usage?

You assume incorrectly. Wolfe was saying that the first response was
begging the question, so he'd try again to get the information he wanted
by rephrasing his question.
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Old 03-22-2011, 01:26 PM
Marko Vojinovic
 
Default Begs the question

On Tuesday 22 March 2011 12:41:29 Tim wrote:
> On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 10:34 +0000, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> > "That begs the question. I'll try again. Why do they think it has a
> > basis?"
> >
> > is correct usage, while
> >
> > "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"
> >
> > is incorrect. If I assume that the "I'll try again." sentence in the
> > middle is irrelevant in this context, the only difference I see is
> > comma vs. period.
> >
> > So, all in all, are you actually complaining about punctuation usage?
>
> Ignoring anything do with what "begs the question" means, or doesn't
> mean. The first sample quotation has two statements, and a separate
> question. The second one has what should be a separate phase lumped in
> with a question, when they shouldn't be combined.
>
> i.e. The bit that it starts off with "That begs the question" isn't a
> question, nor any part of a question, so it shouldn't be in a sentence
> that's a question.
>
> On the other hand, it could have been correctly written as:
>
> "That begs the question, 'Way do they think it has a basis?'"
>
> (Someone said "That begs the question," and then stated what the
> question was.)
>
> It's a bit like bracketing in maths.

Ok, so essentially it is a punctuation issue --- incorrectly ommiting the
quotes around the question that is being begged for. Thanks for the
clarification! :-)

> Grammar's a fun thing, especially with the English language. For
> instance, in this sentence:
>
> "We went to school, we wrote in our books, we had lunch."
>
> Did we go to school, and write in our books, and have lunch? Or did we
> go to school, and write "we had lunch" into our books?
>
> If that had been written as three separate sentences, we'd know for
> sure.

I agree, it is indeed a lot of fun. ;-) As a non-native English speaker, I can
say that the source of such ambiguities lies in the simplicity of English
grammar. In languages with more complex grammar rules, such a sentence would
be either unambiguous, or illegal. And one would not need punctuation to
differentiate between the two meanings.

The point of punctuation (as I understand it) is to substitute for things that
cannot be easily written down, when expressed in vocal communication. Things
like voice pitch, accenting, face and body gestures. In your example sentence
above, one can pronounce it in (at least) two different ways, and then the
meaning would be quite unambiguous. However, that meaning would rely heavily
on voice intonation, pausing between words, etc., which cannot be written down
easily. Consequently, the meaning of the written sentence depends heavily on
the punctuation that is used to supplement for the missing information.

In languages with more complex grammar, punctuation serves the same purpose,
but is not so essential, due to complexity of the grammatical structure
itself. Therefore, non-native English speakers do not pay so much attention to
complex punctuation, simply because in their language it is not so
complicated. It's a tradeoff between simple grammar and simple punctuation.

That said, I agree that one should never be sloppy with punctuation, grammar
or otherwise. :-) It's just that when someone objects to punctuation issue in
an e-mail, non-native English readers will easily get confused, as I did. ;-)

Best, :-)
Marko

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Old 03-22-2011, 01:36 PM
Marko Vojinovic
 
Default Begs the question

On Tuesday 22 March 2011 13:17:59 Patrick O'Callaghan wrote:
> On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 23:13 +1030, Tim wrote:
> > On Tue, 2011-03-22 at 10:34 +0000, Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> > > "That begs the question, why do they think it has a basis?"
> >
> > Or, if you want a less wordy answer:
> >
> > The words "That begs the question" are not part of the question that's
> > being asked (why do they think it has a basis?). The question has to be
> > written all by its lonesome.
>
> Even more OT: since we're talking about English grammar and orthography,
> there are certain errors that tend to crop up on this list (and on
> others of course), to wit:
>
> 1) This looks like an error?
> 2) How do I do this.
>
> Sadly, they are often committed by those who would seem to be native
> English speakers. People, informality is fine and I have no problem with
> it, but a question in written English has to be grammatically structured
> as a question and not a statement (error 1) and *must* conclude with a
> '?' (error 2). Neither of these is optional, e.g. you can't convert a
> statement to a question merely by sticking a '?' on the end. So the
> correct forms of the above would be:
>
> 1) Does this look like an error?
> 2) How do I do this?

Just a small comment wrt. error 1 --- I was actually surprised to find out that
in some languages the statement and the question have exactly the same form,
the only difference being the question mark vs. period at the end of the
sentence. In vocal communication, people would distinguish between the two by
using different voice pitch at the end of the sentence, marking it as a
statement or as a question. So the error 1 above may be "imported" into
English from outside, so to say.

> Just thought I'd get that off my chest :-)

:-)

Of course, when a native English speaker makes such mistakes, he is either too
sloppy or barely literate, which is bad. But when a non-native does it, it may
just be down to not being aware that such a construction is a mistake in
English.

Best, :-)
Marko


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