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    • Join Date: Jun 2009
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    #1

    Comma semantics

    I am having an issue with a California state law that has a comma where, I believe, a semicolon should be or where there should be no comma. Here it is: CA gov code 53150

    "Any person who is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, whose negligent operation of a motor vehicle caused by that influence proximately causes any incident resulting in an appropriate emergency response, and any person whose intentionally wrongful conduct proximately causes any incident resulting in an appropriate emergency response, is liable for the expense of an emergency response by a public agency to the incident."

    the first set of commas are not part of a serial comma situation, but rather seem to be used properly. The last comma seems to define the "and" as an "also" instead of and "or" as was intended.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
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    #2

    Re: Comma semantics

    The final comma separates "is liable for..." from the immediately preceding clause, and so indicates that what follows - "is liable for the expense..." - applies equally to all parts of the foregoing.
    (i) any person under the influence...is liable for...
    (ii) or any person under the combined influence is liable for...
    (iii) and any person whose intentionally...is liable for...

    One comma achieves such brevity!


    • Join Date: Jun 2009
    • Posts: 3
    #3

    Re: Comma semantics

    So, it is part of a serial comma situation. I totally missed that last comma. gggrrr looks like I owe some money hahaah

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Comma semantics

    Besides, commas are in a land in-between, a fairly weak attempt to give some indication of meter and tone in natural speech, such as pauses and rising intonation; to think they are governed by a sacrosanct law, written in stone, for which no variation is permitted, is..... probably not right. They're an epiphenomenon, not really a part of the language. I never feel guilty about it if people don't agree with my commas, their placement, etc.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
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    #5

    Re: Comma semantics

    They're an epiphenomenon, not really a part of the language.

    Tell it to the judge! Tell it to the judge! (In this case, the California Supreme Court.)

    (Rowan and Martin's Laugh In , for thems who can remember.)

    Besides, commas are in a land in-between... I never feel guilty about it if people don't agree with my commas, their placement, etc.

    I agree....until that land "in-between" conveys very definite meaning. The comma has not survived just because it is some toy balloon, to be tossed around at whim. '"Sacrosant" - no... but commas are not to be regarded as mere 'incidentals', playthings of our mood.

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Comma semantics

    Hmm, good points. Sometimes they are very important. But I always feel a bit bemused when learners ask where they go, and why, expecting something written iin stone. :)

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