Infer/imply
Posted: 04 October 2017 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Infer, meaning to deduce or conclude something by reasoning, is many times confused with imply, meaning something that is suggested, intimated or hinted at.
Interesting though that at one time infer meant:

OED

Etymology: < Latin inferre to bear, bring, or carry in, to inflict, make (war), to cause, occasion, to introduce; in medieval Latin, to infer; < in- (IN- prefix2) + ferre to bear. Compare French inférer to allege, show, infer (16th cent.).

1.
a. trans. To bring on, bring about, induce, occasion, cause, procure; to bring upon (a person, etc.), to inflict; to wage (war) upon. Obs.
c1540 A. BORDE Bk. for to Lerne C iv a Immoderat slepe..doth induce and infarre [1542 —— Dyetary viii. (1870) 245 infer] breuyte of lyfe.

†b. To confer, bestow. Obs.
1589 T. NASHE Anat. Absurditie Epist. ⁋iij What ever content felicitie or Fortune may enferre.

†c. with compl. To cause to be; to make, render. Obs.rare.

†2. To bring in, introduce (in discourse or writing); to mention, report, relate, tell; to bring forward (as an argument, etc.), adduce, allege. (With simple obj., or more rarely obj. clause.) Obs.
a1529 J. SKELTON Magnyfycence (?1530) sig. Aii Somwhat I coulde enferreyour consayte to debarre.

Careful writers do make a distinction when infer is confused with imply and a few dictionaries considered it incorrect usage.

4. To lead to (something) as a conclusion; to involve as a consequence; to imply. (Said of a fact or statement; sometimes, of the person who makes the statement.)
This use is widely considered to be incorrect, esp. with a person as the subject .

( Bold emphasis my own)

Usage

There is a distinction in meaning between infer and imply. In the sentence the speaker implied that the General had been a traitor, implied means that the speaker subtly suggested that this man was a traitor (though nothing so explicit was actually stated). However, in we inferred from his words that the General had been a traitor, inferred means that something in the speaker’s words enabled the listeners to deduce that the man was a traitor. The two words infer and imply can describe the same event, but from different angles. Use of infer to mean imply, as in are you inferring that I’m a liar? (instead of are you implying that I’m a liar?), is an extremely common error.

(Bold emphasis my own)
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Posted: 05 October 2017 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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First, that usage note is not from the OED. I don’t know where you got it. Part of it appears in several OUP-published books, but last sentence is not part of any OUP book that I’ve seen.

Second, the usage of infer and imply is much more complex than this. There are multiple usage patterns for the words, and the simple infer is reception/imply is transmission distinction does not cut it. As the OED notes in sense 4 (a portion you do not quote), the “erroneous” sense of infer dates to the sixteenth century, and is among the original senses of the word. (Indeed the first citations for both of the main senses are by the same person, Sir Thomas More.)

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, objections to the “erroneous” usage weren’t recorded until 1917 and serious commentary on it didn’t start until the late 1950s. The thing to remember is the overlapping senses have never caused any confusion.

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Posted: 05 October 2017 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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First, that usage note is not from the OED. I don’t know where you got it. Part of it appears in several OUP-published books, but last sentence is not part of any OUP book that I’ve seen.

I obtained the information from OED’s link to Oxford Dictionaries, which focuses more on current usage.  I should have noted that.

As the OED notes in sense 4 (a portion you do not quote), the “erroneous” sense of infer dates to the sixteenth century, and is among the original senses of the word

.
I thought I had made that point when I submitted the notes in sense 4.

Below is a usage note from AHD

Usage Note: Infer is sometimes confused with imply, but the distinction careful writers make between these words is a useful one. When we say that a speaker or sentence implies something, we mean that it is conveyed or suggested without being stated outright: When the mayor said that she would not rule out a business tax increase, she implied (not inferred) that some taxes might be raised. Inference, on the other hand, is the activity performed by a reader or interpreter in drawing conclusions that are not explicit in what is said: When the mayor said that she would not rule out a tax increase, we inferred that she had consulted with new financial advisers, since her old advisers favored tax reductions.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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