what is going on in the dialog?

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gabalus
 
Reply Thu 14 May, 2009 01:16 pm
The dialog goes as follow:
SMITH: The smallest lightbult in the world was built two days ago!
JONES: Really? Does it mean that there wasn't the smallest lightbult in the world before???

Could you tell why those words are strange and funny? Who did use the description referentally and who attributively?
 
Theages
 
Reply Wed 10 Jun, 2009 12:16 am
@gabalus,
Two notes:

1. "The smallest x in the world" is what is called a non-rigid designator. It has a reference, but that reference shifts. For example, "The current president of Poland has an identical twin" used to be true, but no longer is. "The current president of Poland" has an extension (what it points to) which is determined by its intension (what it refers to under particular conditions).

2. Jones's question is formed from a purely existential statement. It is not clear that this kind of statement is meaningful.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 10 Jun, 2009 12:42 am
@Theages,
Quantifiers, Comparative and Superlatives are always fun to play with, and make for some very ambiguous word play.
 
 

 
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