one of them (ambiguity)

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one of them (ambiguity)

Post by azz » Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:52 pm

Is the sentence
a. One of the sergeants didn't come to my house.
ambiguous?

Does it work in both of these contexts?

a1. One of the sergeants didn't come to my house. One of the privates did.
(It was not one of the sergeants who came to my house. It was one of the privates. No sergeant came to my house.)

a2. One of the sergeants didn't come to my house. The rest of them all did.
(Only one of them did not show up. I have a specific one in mind.)

Many thanks.
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Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:45 pm

I would say that they all work.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by tony h » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:39 pm

Your first example "One of the sergeants didn't come to my house" I think would normally suggest that at least one sergeant did come to the house, and it is known that at least one stayed away.

To suggest that they all stayed away I would use:
- None came to the house
- None of the sergeants came to the house

It is a construction used in humour and verbal puzzles.
- in humour, a classic 1970s version might be : "I didn't kiss one of the girls." "No. But you kissed all the others!"
- in puzzles, it might be (in amongst a longer set-up) "two people in the boat. One of them isn't your father." And the trick is to conclude that the other one is your father.

As a matter of interest azz, where are you from?
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by azz » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:36 pm

Thank you both so much!

It is a bit confusing.
I would conclude from: I didn't kiss one of the girls. that the person did kiss all the others, unless 'one' was heavily accentuated. In that case, it would probably mean 'noun'.
In the other case, (Two people in a boat. One of them isn't your father.) I would conclude that the other one is my father. I'd say that that one is unambiguous.

As to the first sentence, it seems that different people have different takes on it. Some think it could replace 'It wasn't one of your sergeants who came to my house.' and some think it can't...

That is the theory I have come up with, but it might be totally wrong.

To answer your question: I come from Iran. I am Armenian and I can speak both Farsi and Armenian, but not equally well! Technically, you could say I am bi-lingual.

Many thanks.
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Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:11 am

azz wrote:Is the sentence
a. One of the sergeants didn't come to my house.
ambiguous?

Does it work in both of these contexts?

a1. One of the SERGEANTS didn't come to my house. One of the privates did.
(It was not one of the sergeants who came to my house. It was one of the privates. No sergeant came to my house.)

a2. ONE of the sergeants didn't **come** to my house. The rest of them all did.
(Only one of them did not show up. I have a specific one in mind.)
In speech, any possible ambiguity is resolved by the accentuation of the most significant elements. In the specimen sentences you provided, I have capitalized above those words which would need to be emphasized in order to generate the desired meaning.

In writing, the context might or might not disambiguate the meaning. For instance, if you'd written a novel that opened simply with "One of the sergeants didn't come to my house", I would have no idea what was being implied unless you had used italics or another typographical device to make the meaning explicit.
-----------------------
**come**
Emphasis of this word would be usual here, but would not be essential for disambiguation.
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Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by tony h » Tue Apr 18, 2017 5:37 pm

The points Erik makes are well made.

I am interested in your expectations from the statements. So let's try another example.

Instead of:
azz wrote:I would conclude from: I didn't kiss one of the girls. that the person did kiss all the others
"I didn't smoke one of your cigarettes". Most people would assume this meant you didn't smoke any of the cigarettes not even one.
Similarly, and slightly enhancing the context, "At the school where I worked there were 500 girls and I didn't kiss one of the girls". This again would be "I didn't kiss any of the girls - not one".

The construction seems to me, without having given much thought to it, to normally mean: if not one then not any.
azz wrote:(Two people in a boat. One of them isn't your father.) I would conclude that the other one is my father. I'd say that that one is unambiguous.[/query]
Again, putting in some more context: "There are two people in the boat. One of them isn't your father as he is very short. I can't see the other one well enough to tell." "My Dad's just sent a text. He is coming by car, not by boat."
Statistically it must be a low probability that your father is on any particular boat.
azz wrote:To answer your question: I come from Iran. I am Armenian and I can speak both Farsi and Armenian, but not equally well! Technically, you could say I am bi-lingual.
Thank you. It is always interesting. I remember a most amazing Persian drummer. He played for about three quarters of an hour producing the most entrancing set of sounds from a single drum. I have often tried to find a recording of such drumming.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by azz » Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:41 am

Thank you so much Eric and Tony,

If it was a drum with drumsticks, I wouldn't be able to help you. Did he have drumsticks? Wasn't he striking the drum with his hands?

The examples are great. In those contexts, the sentences mean what you say they mean!!

What about:
b. I didn't kiss two of those girls.
b1. I didn't even kiss two of those girls.


Would you say they are ambiguous?

I think (b) could mean:
1. There were two I didn't kiss, but I kissed all the others.
and
2. It is not true that I kissed two of those girls. (Maybe I kissed more, maybe I kissed fewer.)

I don't think (b) could be used to mean: I didn't kiss any of those girls.

(b1) clearly means I kissed fewer than two, but my assumption would be that the number was one. Again, unlike 'I didn't kiss one of those girls', it could not be used to mean "I didn't kiss any of those girls.'.

I think 'one' is a special number, because below it there is nothing.

Many thanks.

PS. In "even kiss' the emphasis could be on the act of kissing and not on the number. I am excluding that case.

You made love with five of those girls. I didn't even kiss two of them.
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Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by tony h » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:59 am

Hi, your questions are interesting but as my head is giving me a lot of problems today I'll just answer the one I raised about the drums.
azz wrote:If it was a drum with drumsticks, I wouldn't be able to help you. Did he have drumsticks? Wasn't he striking the drum with his hands?
The drum was like the Indian Tabla - it was probably a Toumbak. The programme was broadcast in the late '70s on the BBC. He used his hands and also wore rings on his fingers which allowed a greater variation in effects.

Since seeing that I have had a fascination for hand drumming.
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Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: one of them (ambiguity)

Post by azz » Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:38 am

Thank you Tony,

I guess it was this guy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc1YQv6O1sg

His name is Hossein Tehrani.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hossein_Tehrani

َAnd you are right about the instrument.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonbak

As you can see, the name is pronounced in different ways.

Best regards.
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