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  1. #1
    N.lady is offline Newbie
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    Red face ambiguous sentences

    Hello,

    i've a question please help me with it


    In what ways are these sentences structurally ambiguous?

    1- The parents of the bride and groom were wating outside.
    2- We met an English history teacher.
    3- Flying planes can be dangerous.
    4- The students complained to everyone that they couldn't understand.


    that's it

    peace

  2. #2
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by N.lady View Post
    Hello,

    i've a question please help me with it

    In what ways are these sentences structurally ambiguous?

    1- The parents of the bride and groom were wating outside.
    2- We met an English history teacher.
    3- Flying planes can be dangerous.
    4- The students complained to everyone that they couldn't understand.

    that's it

    peace
    Without a specific context, one can get this one meaning from the above sentences:

    Both the parents of the bride and the groom were waiting outside.
    We met a History teacher who's also an Englishman.
    Flying planes can be dangerous - in war times,they can drop bombs..
    The students complained to everyone whom they could not understand.

  3. #3
    N.lady is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    Without a specific context, one can get this one meaning from the above sentences:

    Both the parents of the bride and the groom were waiting outside.
    We met a History teacher who's also an Englishman.
    Flying planes can be dangerous - in war times,they can drop bombs..
    The students complained to everyone whom they could not understand.
    mmm may you please explain what do you mean in the first sentence
    or the difference between them. coz I think they're similar.
    I didnt get the idea.. sorry.


    hmmm.. I've thought about it. I think it means
    riding flying planes can be dangerous or a person who drive the planes can be dangeorus ... what do you think ?

    thanks ms. bianca ^^

  4. #4
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by N.lady View Post
    Hello,

    i've a question please help me with it


    In what ways are these sentences structurally ambiguous?

    1- The parents of the bride and groom were wating outside.
    2- We met an English history teacher.
    3- Flying planes can be dangerous.
    4- The students complained to everyone that they couldn't understand.


    that's it

    peace
    Interesting sentences. I can't analyse their grammar structure. However they seem like puzzles, you keep thinking about them and you find another meaning. Let us check some of them:
    4a - The students couldn't understand some teachers, these teachers seemed indeed weird. So the students complained directly to these teachers about it
    4b - The students went outside the school and talked to everybody they found. They started complaining to them (not the teachers) that they couldn't undertand those weird teachers.
    3a - The very act of flying a plane can be dangerous.
    3b - A flying plane (a plane which is flying) can be dangerous.
    2a - We met an Englishman who was a history teacher.
    2b - We met a teacher of English history.


    PS Not a native speaker
    Last edited by Abstract Idea; 27-Dec-2009 at 13:32. Reason: "or English history" changed to "of English history"

  5. #5
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    The students complained to everyone whom they could not understand.
    Interesting! With the relative pronoun one can rule out the ambiguity:

    The students complained to everyone whom they could not understand.
    The students complained to everyone that they could not understand.

    So the original sentence, to be really ambigous, should not exhibit the relative pronoun, that is, it should read:
    "The students complained to everyone they could not understand."

  6. #6
    N.lady is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Interesting sentences. I can't analyse their grammar structure. However they seem like puzzles, you keep thinking about them and you find another meaning. Let us check some of them:
    4a - The students couldn't understand some teachers, these teachers seemed indeed weird. So the students complained directly to these teachers about it
    4b - The students went outside the school and talked to everybody they found. They started complaining to them (not the teachers) that they couldn't undertand those weird teachers.
    3a - The very act of flying a plane can be dangerous.
    3b - A flying plane (a plane which is flying) can be dangerous.
    2a - We met an Englishman who was a history teacher.
    2b - We met a teacher or English history.


    PS Not a native speaker
    thank you very much

    hmm i think the 4th will be
    4a- the studentes comlained to everyone that they (the students themselves) coudn't understand. (They just comlained to everyone)
    4b- the students complained to everyone whome didn't understand.
    (every one didnt understand NOT the students)

    what do you think?


    (3) very nice explanation .. i got it ^^

    (2) b- you meant a teacher who teaches English history, aren't you?

  7. #7
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by N.lady View Post
    thank you very much

    hmm i think the 4th will be
    4a- the studentes comlained to everyone that they (the students themselves) coudn't understand. (They just comlained to everyone) OK
    4b- the students complained to everyone whome didn't understand.
    (every one didnt understand NOT the students) I don't think so

    what do you think?


    (3) very nice explanation .. i got it ^^

    (2) b- you meant a teacher who teaches English history, aren't you?
    A third interpretation to 4 (slightly artificial) could be:
    4c - The students complained to everyone about the fact that they (not the students but their interlocutors) could not understand.
    However, I guess this last one is kind of artificial.

  8. #8
    Abstract Idea is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Quote Originally Posted by N.lady View Post

    (2) b- you meant a teacher who teaches English history, aren't didn't you?
    Yes, that is exactly what I meant. I corrected a typo mistake in the post above.

  9. #9
    Searching for language is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    The first sentence could mean that BOTH the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom were there.

    Or, it could mean that the parents of the bride were there, plus the groom was there.

    Also not a teacher.

  10. #10
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: ambiguous sentences

    Isn't it funny how many meanings you can get out of a simple sentence?
    No wonder misunderstandings in communication happen. My students keep saying: "The important thing is that I get my message across." - when they are too lazy to want to think when writing/speaking. But, does the message come across - as it was intended? And how many listeners listen well, .. or do they believe they understand, no further questions asked? This, to me, is a challenge, especially when teaching to a class of mixed cultures and nationalities.
    Last edited by bianca; 28-Dec-2009 at 18:19.

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