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wrong

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:30 am
by azz
a. You were wrong to go there.
b. What you said was wrong.
c. What you did was wrong.



'Wrong' is a an ambiguous word. It could mean 'morally wrong' or simply 'incorrect'.

My feeling is that in (a) and (b) it has the 'incorrect' meaning. It means you made a mistake. It doesn't mean you did something immoral.
In (b) it has the moral meaning. It means what you did was morally wrong.

Is that correct?

Many thanks.

Re: wrong

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:55 pm
by Erik_Kowal
azz wrote:
Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:30 am
My feeling is that in (a) and (b) it has the 'incorrect' meaning. It means you made a mistake. It doesn't mean you did something immoral.
In (b) it has the moral meaning. It means what you did was morally wrong.
Not necessarily. As is so often the case with this kind of question, the answer is highly context-dependent. In the case of a), a schoolboy might have been caught in the teachers' staff room just before an exam, reading the answers. In the case of b), a bullying supervisor could be being disciplined after being caught swearing at a subordinate on CCTV. In both cases, a moral infraction would have occurred, not a mere error.

So in practice, speech ambiguities are often resolved by the setting. In actual conversation, a lot of disambiguating information is also conveyed by the tone of voice, speech volume, rate of delivery, timbre etc.