What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, May 28, 2015.

  1. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    1 - Every minute, a woman gives birth.

    2 - A woman gives birth every minute.

    < >.
     
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  3. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    #2 Implies it's the same woman giving birth every minute.
     
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  5. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member

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    #2 is probably named Duggar.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Not really. It's ambiguous and should have been written more carefully, but we all know what it means.
     
  8. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    But isn't that only because we're aware of the 9-month gestation period and can see the obvious discrepancy in the sentence?

    If it was a term we were unfamiliar with, wouldn't there be no way to discern whether it was talking about every individual in that category, or a single individual?
     
  9. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    If you don't understand the terms you're not going to learn much no matter how its worded.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Sure. But virtually all humans are aware of our species's nine-month gestation, so the issue never arises.
     
  11. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    I guess you do have a point there.

    Although I was wondering if the structure of the sentence itself could lead to ambiguity, in the sense that "A <something> does <action> every <period of time>"?
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The technology of language was developed haphazardly over tens of thousands of years. It's only as precise and consistent as it needs to be to satisfy the needs of the people who use it. So of course there's a built-in capacity for ambiguity.

    If a particular construction causes misunderstanding often enough that it becomes irritating, then people will add more words to their sentences to overcome it. Eventually they'll find a way to streamline that, and a new grammatical paradigm will emerge.

    It's doubtful that "a woman gives birth every minute" will ever confuse anyone, so it's doubtful that anyone will ever feel a need to clarify that construction.
     
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  13. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    Sometimes it seems you and I live on different planets. I've known many people to be confused by it. #2 not only implies but it says it is the same woman. Really. Language is precise and consistent enough to satisfy the laziness, apathy and silliness of the people who use it.
     
  14. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    A Xenomorph Queen lays an egg every minute.
     
  15. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    She asked us to build a shed with a floor space of 12 square feet. My assistant wrote it as 12 feet squared. I called to check with her and she said "No. That would be gross."
     
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  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You absolutely must be joking--or else you live in Alabama. No one with an IQ above 70 could misinterpret that sentence--for the obvious reason that they all know that it takes many weeks before a fetus is sufficiently developed for its ejection to be called a "birth."

    Perhaps a very young child could misinterpret it.
     
  17. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    Silliness indeed. Jokes are funny because people recognize the absurdity of certain situations. The same woman giving birth every minute is silly/absurd/funny because we instantly know it isn't literally true.
     
  18. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    Someone disagreeing with you does not mean they are joking or they live in a place you are biased against.
    Part of it is children and part of it is people who understand the statement yet are confused as to the intention of the person saying or writing such a ridiculous thing. Then there are the low IQs in EVERY state of the US.
    Anyone with sufficient IQ and education should not be saying #2 if they mean #1.
    I wish you were joking about your unfair prejudice against people in the South.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2015
  19. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    1 - Productivity of the factory in Camden is 200% of the factory in Greenbelt.

    2 - Productivity of the Camden factory is 200% more than the Greenbelt factory.
     
  20. Olinguito Registered Member

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    1. C = 2G.

    2. C = G + 2G = 3G.
     
  21. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

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    In the example you gave, Stranger, the ambiguity should be removed by knowledge of the subject matter. However, the same sentence structure, with different subject matter may remain ambiguous without further clarification. I guess it makes more sense to me to use a clearer sentence structure in all cases, to avoid falling into the habit of using the deficient one.
     
  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Both sentences are equally ambiguous. I think from a syntax point of view they mean exactly the same thing, and it is only context that might provide any difference.
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    As a former future scientist, not to mention a full-time professional writer, I can assure you that editors (and anyone else who is responsible for the quality of the writing of his staff) know that 200% more than something means three times the original value; whereas 200% of something means exactly double.
     

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