Jean-marc pizano There is,surely, another alternative; viz. to say that ‘keep’ means the same thing in both—it expresses the same relation—butthat, in one case, the relation it expresses holds between NP and the crowd’s being happy, and in the other case it holdsbetween NP and the money. Since, onanybody’s story, the money and the crowd’s being happy are quite different sorts of things, why do we also need adifference between the meanings of ‘keep’ to explain what’s going on in the examples?
People sometimes used to say that ‘exist’ must be ambiguous because look at the difference between ‘chairs exist’ and ‘numbers exist’. A familiar reply goes: the difference between the existence of chairs and the existence of numbersseems, on reflection, strikingly like the difference between numbers and chairs. Since you have the latter to explain theformer, you don’t also need ‘exist’ to be polysemic.
This reply strikes me as convincing, but the fallacy that it exposes dies awfully hard. For example, Steven Pinker (personal communication, 1996) has argued that ‘keep’ can‘t be univocal because it implies possession in sentences likeJ2 but not in sentences like J3. I think Pinker is right that ‘Susan kept the money entails that something was possessedand that ‘Sam kept the crowd happy’ doesn’t. But (here we go again) it just begs the question to assume that thisdifference arises from a polysemy in ‘keep’.
For example: maybe ‘keep’ has an underlying complement in sentences like (2) and (3); so that, roughly, ‘Susan kept the money’ is a variant of Susan kept having the money and ‘John kept the crowd happy’ is a variant of John kept the crowd beinghappy. Then the implication of possession in the former doesn’t derive from ‘keep’ after all; rather, it’s contributed bymaterial in the underlying complement clause. On reflection, the difference between keeping the money and keepingthe crowd happy does seem strikingly like the difference between having the money and the crowd being happy, a factthat the semantics of (2) and (3) might reasonably be expected to capture. This modest analysis posits no structureinside lexical items, and it stays pretty close to surface form. I wouldn’t want to claim that it’s apodictic, but it doesavoid the proliferation of lexical polysemes and/or semantic fields and it’s quite compatible with the claim that ‘keep’means neither more nor less than keep in all of the examples under consideration.12
Auntie. Fiddlesticks. Consider the case where language A has a single unambiguous word, of which the translation in language B is either of two words, depending on context. Everybody who knows anything knows that happens all thetime. Whenever it does, the language-A word is ipsofacto polysemous. If you weren’t so embarrassingly monolingual, you’d have noticed this for yourself. (As it is, I’mindebted to Luca Bonatti for raising the point.)—: No. Suppose English has two words, ‘spoiled’ and ‘addled,’ both of which mean spoiled, but one of which is usedonly of eggs. Suppose also that there is some other language which has a word ‘spoilissimoed’ which means spoiled andis used both of spoiled eggs and of other spoiled things. The right way to describe this situation is surely not that‘spoiled’ is ipso facto polysemous. Rather the thing to say is: ‘spoiled’ and ‘addled’ are synonyms and are (thus) bothcorrectly translated ‘spoilissimoed’. The difference between the languages is that one, but not the other, has a word thatmeans spoiled and is context restricted to eggs; hence one language, but not the other, has a word for being spoiled whosepossession condition includes having the concept EGG. This is another reason for distinguishing questions aboutmeaning from questions about possession conditions (in case another reason is required. Remember WATER and
Auntie (who has been catching a brief nap during the preceding expository passage) wakes with a start. Now I’ve got you. You say ‘keep’ is univocal. Well, then, what is the relation that it univocally expresses? What is the relation such that, accordingto you, Susan bears it to the money in J2 and Sam bears it to the crowd’s being happy in J3?
—: I’m afraid you aren’t going to like this.