, de dicto/de re ambiguity
is a logical
issue in semantics
Take the statement, "Jan wants to invite a clown to the wedding
Assuming no contrastive stress
, this has two readings
1) the de dicto
("of what is said") reading - Jan wants to invite someone on the basis of them being a clown
. He doesn't really care who the clown is, he just wants a clown to be present.
2) the de re
("of the thing") reading - Jan wants to invite an individual, say, Bozo
, who happens to be a clown, and not necessarily because he's a clown.
These different readings are also represented differently in logic
using predicate calculus
W(x,Φ) - x wants to Φ where Φ is a proposition.
I(x,y) - x invites y to the wedding.
C(x) - x is a clown
j = Jan
And I will use E as the existential quantifier
and subscript to represent my restrictions (I use restricted quantification
reading: W(j, ExC(x)
In English, roughly: Want holds between Jan and an Existant x, Clown of x, such that Invite holds between Jan and x.
W(j, I(j, x))
English: There Exists an x, Clown of x, such that Want holds between Jan and x.