2

observe = 1. Notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant
2. {reporting verb} Make a remark

remark = 1. {reporting verb} Say something as a comment; mention
2. {with object} Regard with attention; notice

1. How do you resolve the ambiguity for these two verbs, if context doesn't suffice? I ask in general, but here's an example from p 593, First Principles, by Herbert Spencer:
[Based on the para above which is cited below, I guess the antecedent of his as 'Mr. Guthrie']

His next chapter begins:—

It will have been observed that in the preceding part of this criticism I have employed the term 'matter in motion,' and have avoided the use of the word 'force,' although it appears so prominently in the pages of Mr. Spencer's work. This has not been accidental. but by design, indicating indicating as it does one of my main criticisms of Mr. Spencer.

In this example, does Mr. Guthrie mean that the reader ought to have noticed his diction (eg employment of 'matter in motion'), or that Mr. Guthrie wrote about his such diction?

2. What are some formal terms describing this issue?

  • 2
    Obviously in your cited context the writer can only mean "It will have been noticed [by the reader]...", since it makes no sense at all to say "It will have been pointed out [by me, the writer] that I [used the term]". In fact it's probably impossible to come up with a fully-contextualised sentence where the two different meanings of either verb might both be equally credible interpretations. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '15 at 16:36
  • 1
    Here's a fully-contextualised scenario where the two meanings are equally valid. Investigator: We know that Mary observed that you were not home that night. Suspect: How do you know? Are saying you have some evidence that Mary noticed that? Or are you saying that she said that? Investigator: Maybe one. Maybe the other. Maybe both! Now tell me the truth! Where where you on the night of Jan 23, 2012? – CoolHandLouis Mar 7 '15 at 13:17
  • I think it's important to point out that various distinctions of meaning are not necessarily obvious for someone learning English. It may seem obvious to us native English speakers because we are familiar with the construct. – CoolHandLouis Mar 8 '15 at 1:47
1

Original Text: It will have been observed that in the preceding part of this criticism I have employed the term 'matter in motion,' and have avoided the use of the word 'force,'...

OP's Question: In this example, does Mr. Guthrie mean that: (1) the reader ought to have noticed his diction (eg employment of 'matter in motion'), or (2) that Mr. Guthrie wrote about his such diction?

The author is using rhetoric to make it sound like "a statement of fact" rather than "note that I said this". The author is stating this from the perspective of the future (and leaving out mention of himself):

  • It will have been observed [for you the reader, right now and in the future as you look back upon this, since I am pointing this out right now] that in the preceding part of this criticism...

The reader understands this construct and does not think that the author is presuming that the reader "should have noticed". (Credit to @RussianD's excellent answer, "It's not uncommon in formal writing.")


What are the formal terms that describe this?

These two words are synonyms. The issue is one of resolving ambiguity. In this case, some of the ambiguity is resolved (at least in part) by familiarity with the rhetorical device that the author was using.

0

"It will have been observed that..." is a passive construction, which is equivalent to "readers (or "others" in general) will have observed that...". It's not uncommon in formal writing, where the author doesn't want to draw attention to themselves by using "I" or "we", but instead opts for an impersonal construction using the passive voice (e.g. "two experiments have been designed to test this hypothesis).

As to context disambiguation between "observe" and "remark" - like with other words that can be synonyms, you're going to find that certain contexts favor one synonym over the other, even if the meaning wouldn't change. That has to deal with the pragmatics of language (how to use it) and not the semantics of language (what it means), and is learned by practice.

One obvious difference is that "to observe" can mean "to notice", as in "irregularities in government funding have been observed for years" - "to remark" doesn't have that meaning, and if you stick it in this example, it wouldn't work. Also, you'll likely see "remark" as a noun more frequently, as in the expression "to make a remark".

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