Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by StrangerInAStrangeLa, May 28, 2015.
1 - Every minute, a woman gives birth.
2 - A woman gives birth every minute.
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#2 Implies it's the same woman giving birth every minute.
#2 is probably named Duggar.
Not really. It's ambiguous and should have been written more carefully, but we all know what it means.
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?
If you don't understand the terms you're not going to learn much no matter how its worded.
Sure. But virtually all humans are aware of our species's nine-month gestation, so the issue never arises.
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>"?
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.
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.
A Xenomorph Queen lays an egg every minute.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. C = 2G.
2. C = G + 2G = 3G.
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.
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.
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.
Separate names with a comma.