They are cooking apples

有人想出這樣的句子﹕They are cooking apples,字字顯淺,意思似乎不難明白,其實是歧義句。

簡單的分析﹕cooking 作分詞時,和 are 連在一起,整句意思是「他們正在烹調蘋果。但 cooking 也可以是形容詞,就用作形容後面的名詞,即 apples,整句的意思就是「它們是正在烹調中的蘋果」。(可參看《心理學十五講》,黃希庭、鄭涌著,北京﹕北京大學出版社,2005,頁239-40)

如此有趣的歧義句,由喬姆斯基(Noam Chomsky)所作。他 1957年出版《句法結構》(Syntactic Structure)一書,提出「轉換生成語法」( transformational grammar)理論。據維基百科的介紹,書中所創「名句」是﹕Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. 以說明就算語法沒錯的句子,也不一定有意義。有人將此句譯作「蒼白的綠色思想在憤怒地睡覺」,我覺得與其用也是顏色的「蒼白」,不如說「無色」,以對應藍呀綠呀。

《句法結構》究竟列出幾多結構多少句子,就所知可作具體說明的例句,有「意義」即不是「廢」的話,可能有歧義,聽時讀時,往往要靠語境來推敲實際意思,實不能掉以輕心。

另一方面,有些話「有紋有路」,語法沒錯,字字清楚,合而成句卻毫無意義,聽了讀了,不察箇中原有蠱惑,只一味苦思其「深」意,徒然浪費時間心力。

做人之難,在於明辨是非。

昧於情況一時難明,一難;偏執,也是一難;不肯認錯,尤其是難關。最要命的,可能是「自以為是」的心態﹕開創未來,捨我其誰。

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. 真的是毫無意義的句子?

可能你已成了「cooking apples」。

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6 thoughts on “They are cooking apples

  1. I am not a book on grammar or word use either. I go with what I’ve heard or read how people (native speakers) usually the words. Let me just say it is fine to say “boiling water" and it doesn’t often need to use “water being boiled." Simmering as an adjective is fine in “simmering soup," but cooking in “(we are) cooking soup" is used as verb rather than adjective. Cooking as an adjective usually means “for cooking" or “used in cooking." Examples, besides cooking apples, are cooking oil and cooking wine.
    It is just not that simple that all gerunds as adjectives are used the same way. I think is not simply about grammar, word use gets in the way sometimes.

    Oh, drinking in “drinking water" means “for drinking" or “drinkable." This use is similar to cooking as an adjective. It surely doesn’t mean 正在drinking中的water. But drinking in “drinking bird" means 正在drinking. So, drinking can be used both ways, depending on what it is describing.
    Refer to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_water
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_bird

    Cook is an interesting word. Here is one more: A cooker isn’t a person who cook but a cook is. (Painter is a person who paint. An actor is a person who act.)

  2. zpdrmn chang﹕

    英文,我真的是不夠班討論,我只是「抄」而已,連「人云亦云」都談不上。但正如你所說,不是所有動詞都可以這樣「玩」的;我想知道的是,cooking 在這句中可以這樣玩嗎,如果不可以,就是舉錯用字例子了。是嗎?

    • I’m back.
      //我想知道的是,cooking 在這句中可以這樣玩嗎//
      As I said before, I’m not an expert. But I haven’t heard or read people in the US 這樣玩 cooking before through these years. But maybe I don’t know better, but I pay attention, but I really am lazy though…
      Maybe I should ask my oldest kid about it. But again, I’m too lazy.

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