Are these sentences both correct:
1-He was talking about Kennedy's assasination in 1963.
2-He was talking about Kennedy's assasination, in 1963.
I don't think one needs the comma, but I don't think using it there is wrong.
Your analysis is correct. (There is some ambiguity. Does the date indicate when it happened or when he was talking about it?)
Here, for once, I was paying attention to context! So I thought context would make it clear that the assasination took place in 63.
Well, it's a well-known event, so it would be well-understood that he was talking about the assassination of Kennedy in 1963. (Of course, the discussion could have also taken place in 1963.) I was, in this case, talking about general cases.
Originally Posted by navi tasan
Context is, in the case of a word, the surrounding words and in the case of a sentence the surrounding sentences. Context will usually help to dispel any ambiguity.
There are levels of ambiguity. Sometimes reading a sentence will give a person one impression, but further reading will make him realize that his first impression was mistaken.
Possible ambiguity in a sentence is not always a problem. It depends on whether context makes the meaning clear or does not. If you say "He was talking about it in 1968" the conversation seems to have taken place in 1968. If you say "He was talking about Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968" it seems that it was the event under discussion that took place in 1968. However, the conversation itself could have also taken place that year. If you say "Yesterday, he was talking about Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968" you have achieved greater clarity still. In any case, context would probably clear up any possible ambiguity.
Good analysis. Actually, I always try to avoid providing context in my questions because that way I can see how grammar functions. Ambiguity is generally swept aside by context. In real life, it almost never causes problems. But if one wants to know how gammar functions "on its own" so to speak, one has to go "beyond" context.
Also, when it comes to translating, or even just understanding literature though, the situation changes. Ambiguity plays an important part in poetry.
Consider also that I might be coming the other way. I am in a particular situation and want to know if a particular sentence could be used in that context. I know the sentence has meaning number 1, but can it be mean meaning number 2 as well? I have to know if the sentence can admit of two meanings (is ambiguous) or not. A native speaker of-course says the correct sentence without even thinking about it.
Well, I hope I have made myself understood. I'll try to come up with some more ambiguous sentences!
As usual, you did quite a good job of making yourself understood.
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