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  1. #1
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    They saw the girl with the telescope, apparently this is also ambiguous, why?

    "They saw the girl with the telescope"

    To me, this sentence is ambigous because
    the word "saw" can refer to seeing the girl or brutally sawing the girl

    also the statement "with the telescope" could refer to
    the girl with the telescope
    or they saw the girl through a telescope.

    Did i interpret it right? What have i missed?

    Ben

  2. #2
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: They saw the girl with the telescope, apparently this is also ambiguous, why?

    Out of context, you can have such presumptions.
    But I wondered if one could saw(cut) the girl with the telescope, even though it was out of context. (Not a teacher)

  3. #3
    lowhead is offline Newbie
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    Re: They saw the girl with the telescope, apparently this is also ambiguous, why?

    The sentence construction is incorrect and the ambiguity lies in the answers to whether it was the girl with the telescope that they saw or was it by means of a telescope that they say the girl.....I think this is referred too as squinting modifiers as. Depending on the true meaning the sentence should be: By means of the telescope they saw the girl OR The girl with the telescope was seen by the group.

  4. #4
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    Re: They saw the girl with the telescope, apparently this is also ambiguous, why?

    Prepositional phrases can have more than one function, which is why your example sentence is ambiguous. It has two meanings:
    1. They saw ... with the telescope.

    Meaning, they used a telescope to watch/see the girl.

    2. the girl with the telescope.

    Meaning, the girl had a telescope. They did not.

    In 1., the prepositional phrase with the telescope functions as an adverb. It tells us how they were able to see the girl. In 2., the prepositional phrase modifies the noun girl. It tells us more about it. It descibes her. She had a telescope.


    Here's another example,
    Ex: We hit the man with the cane.


    1. We hit ... with a cane.

    Meaning, we used a cane to hit the man.


    2. the man with a cane

    Meaning, the man had a cane, we didn't. (We hit the man who was carrying a cane.)
    Does that help?
    Last edited by Casiopea; 01-Sep-2007 at 05:35.

  5. #5
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    Re: They saw the girl with the telescope, apparently this is also ambiguous, why?

    Context fortunately solves our problem. Words themselves can be incredibly ambiguous when taken out of context. Also in speech our intonation and stress would clearly separate the two meanings.

    Truly, in any instance other than pulled up for literary example, this sentence would not really be ambiguous, as it would have context.

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