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21-A. The Language of Uncertainty

Published:2013-01-22 11:26 Click:wait for……
21-A. The Language of Uncertainty Uncertainty spreads through our lives so thoroughly that it dominates our language. Our everyday speech is made up in large part of word like probably, many, soon, great, little. What do these words mean? At
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21-A. The Language of Uncertainty

Uncertainty spreads through our lives so thoroughly that it dominates our language. Our everyday speech is made up in large part of word like probably, many, soon, great, little. What do these words mean?  "Atomic war," declared a recent editorial in the London Times, "is likely to destroy forever the nation that wages it. How exactly are we to understand the word likely? Lacking any standard for estimating the probability, we are left with the judgment of the editorial writer.

Such verbal imprecision is not necessarily to be criticised. Indeed, it has a value just because it allows us to express judgments when a precise quantitative statement is out of the question.
The language of uncertainty has three main categories: (1)words such as probably, possibly, surely, which denote a single subjective probability and are potentially quantifiable; (2)words like many, of-ten, goon, which are also quantifiable but denote not so much a condition of uncertainty as a quantity imprecisely known; (3)words like fat, rich, drunk, which can not be reduced to any accepted number because they are given different values by different people.

We have been trying to pin down by experiments what people mean by these expressions in specific contexts, and how the meanings change with age. For instance, a subject is told "There are many trees in the park” and is asked to say what number the word many mean to him. Or a child is invited to take "some" sweets from a bowl and we then count how many he has taken. We compare the number he takes when he is alone with the number when one or more other children are present and are to take some sweets after him, or with the number he takes when told to give "some” sweets to another child.

First, we find that the number depends, of course, on the items involved. To most people some friends means about five, while .some trees means about twenty. However, unrelated areas sometimes show parallel values. For instance, the language of probability seems to mean about the same thing in predictions about the weather and about politics: the expression is certain to (rain, or be elected) signifies to the average person about a 70 per cent chance; is likely to, about a 60 per cent chance; probably will, about 55 per cent.
Secondly, the size of the population of items influences the value assigned to an expression. Thus, if we. tell a subject to take "a few" or "a lot of" glass bald from a box, he will take more if the box contains a large number of glass balls than if it has a small number. Hut not prolix>rtionately more: if we increase the number of glass balls eight times, the subject takes only half as large a percentage of the total.

Thirdly, there is a marked change with age. Among children between six and fourteen years old, the older the child, the fewer glass balls he will take. But the difference between a lot and a few widens with age. This age effect is so consistent that it might be used as a test of intelligence. In place of a long test we could merely ask the subject to give numerical values to expressions such as nearly always and very rarely in a given context, and then measure his intelligence by the ratio of the number for nearly always to the one for very rarely. We have found that this ration increases systematically from about 2 to 1 for a child of seven to about 20 to 1 for a person twenty-five years old,
 
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dominate['d3mineit]vt./vi.统治,支配,控制
judgment['d98d9m4nt]n.1.审判,判决;2.看法,意见;评价;3.判断
editorial[`edi't3:ri4l]n.社论;a.编辑的,主笔的
wage[weid9]n.[常pl.]工资,报酬;vt.进行,开展
writer['rait4]n.作家,作者
probability[`pr3b4'bil4ti]n.1.可能性;2.概率,或然性
verbal['v4:bl]a.1.言辞的,字句的;2.口头的,非书面的;3.动词的
imprecision[`im'prisi9n]n.不精确,不正确
necessarily['nesis4rili]ad.必然,必定
criticize['kritisaiz]vt.批评,批判
precise[pri'saiz]a.精确的,准确的
quantitative['kw3ntit4tiv]a.与量有关的,定量的
denote[di'n4ut]v.1.指示,指出;2.代表,为...的符号
subjective[s4b'd9ektiv]a.主观的,非客观的
potentially[p4'ten54li]ad.可能地,潜在地
quantifiable['kw3ntifai4bl]a.可测定数量的,可量化的
imprecisely[impri'saisli]ad.不准确地,不精确地
prediction[pri'dik5n]n.1.预言,预计;2.(气象等的)预报
signify['signifai]v.1.表示,为...之象征;2.意味
secondly['sek4ndli]ad.第二,其次
assign[4'sain]vt.1.分配,把...分配给(to);2.委派,指派;3.指定(时间,地点等)
proportionately[pr4'p3:54n4tli]ad.成适当比例地,相称地
thirdly['74:dli]ad.第三
marked[ma:kt]a.明显的,显著的
widen['waidn]vt.加宽,放宽扩大;vi.变宽,变阔扩大
consistent[k4n'sist4nt]a.1.坚持的,一贯的;2.与...一致,符合(with)
intelligence[in'telid94ns]n.1.智力,理解力,聪明;2.情报,消息
numerical[nju:'merik4l]a.1.数字的,用数字表示的;2.数值的
ratio['rei5i4u]n.比...,比率
systematically[sisti'm1tik4li]a.1.有系统地,体系地;2.有计划地,有步骤地
be made up of由...组成
pin down1.钉住,压住;2.使受约束,牵制;3.准确说明
compare...with与...比较
not so much...as...与其...不如
in place of代替



Unit 21   Text A   The Language of Uncertainty
第一段
1. Uncertainty spreads through our lives so thoroughly that it dominates our language.(第一句)
Spread(传播) through our lives thoroughly=在我们的生活中无处不在
不确定性在我们的生活中无所不在,以致它支配着我们的语言。
2. 第二句:is made up in large part of words
be made up of  构成;in large part  很大程度上
3. 第五行:“is likely to destroy forever the nation that wages it.”
Be likely to do sth.  很可能做某事;wage it(the war)  发动战争
4. 最后一句话:Lacking(现在分词作原因状语,用现分的原因是主语we能够发出lack的动作) any standard for estimating the probability, we are left with(放任) the judgment of the editorial writer.
因为我们缺乏任何估计这一可能性的标准,只好听任社论作者去做出判断了。
第二段
1. 第一句:Such verbal imprecision is not necessarily to be criticized.
Be necessarily to do sth.  做某件事情没有太大必要
句中采用了to be criticized是由于主语verbal imprecision(言辞的不精确性)无法发出criticize(批评)的动作。
这类言辞的不精确性并非一定要受到批评。
2. 第二句:allow sb. to do sth.  允许某人做某事
be out of the question  不可能;不能接受;be out of question  没问题
第三段
1. 最后一句:can not be reduced to sth./sb.
be reduced to  转化为
第四段
1. 第一句:pin down sth.  准确说明
2. 最后一句:compare sb./sth. with sb./sth.  拿某人或某事对比
第五段
1. First, we find that the number depends, of course, on the items involved.(过去分词作后置定语,表示涉及)
Depend on  依靠;依赖
当然,我们首先发现的是数目决定于涉及的事务。
2. 第三行:However, unrelated(不相关的) areas sometimes show parallel(相似、类似) values.
然而,同一个词在不相关的领域中有时量值相似。
3. 第五行:be certain to do sth.  一定做某事
4. 第六行:signify to sb.  对某人意味着
be likely to do sth.  很有可能做某事
第七段
1. 第一行:Thirdly, there is a marked (过分作定语,表示明显的)change with age.
数目随年龄显著变化
2. 第二行:The older the child, the fewer glass balls he will take. 越来越句型
年龄越大,取得玻璃球就越小。
3.P603页,上数第二行:in place of  替代
Unit Twenty-one

1. Uncertainty spreads through our lives so thoroughly that it dominates our language. (para.1)
2. Our everyday speech is made up in large part of words like probably, many, soon , great , little. (para.1)

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