certain of those men

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certain of those men

Post by navi » Mon May 01, 2017 7:33 am

1) From where I was, I couldn't tell if some of those men were injured or not.
2) From where I was, I couldn't tell if certain of those men were injured or not.

Can't these sentence have two meanings:

a) I couldn't tell if any of those men were injured or not. Maybe none of them was injured and maybe some of them were.

b) As far as I could tell, it was possible some specific men among those men were injured. I couldn't tell if some specific men among those men were injured or not. As regards the others, I could tell.

Gratefully,
Navi.
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Re: certain of those men

Post by Bobinwales » Fri May 05, 2017 7:07 pm

Yes you are correct.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: certain of those men

Post by Phil White » Wed May 10, 2017 10:06 pm

Theoretically, according to rather old-fashioned grammarians, the ambiguity is resolved by the use of "any":

From where I was, I couldn't tell whether any of those men were injured or not." This is unambiguously your reading a).

Truly old-fashioned grammarians would see the following sentence as rendering your reading b):
From where I was, I couldn't tell whether some of those men were injured or not."

In reality, your sentence 1 is what we would often say, and the ambiguity is resolved (or not) by context.

Taken out of context, spoken language in particular is often ambiguous. A sentence in and of itself has no meaning without context. Huge amounts of what we say every day are ambiguous without the context in which we say them. Politicians live by ambiguity. It is part of the language we speak. Without it we would not have the exquisite joy of argument!

In all of your recent postings, you seem to have been intuitively correct about the ambiguities you identify. But they are not resolved by recasting the sentences. They are resolved by putting the utterance into a very specific context.
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Re: certain of those men

Post by tony h » Wed May 10, 2017 10:37 pm

Phil White wrote:Huge amounts of what we say every day are ambiguous without the context in which we say them. Politicians live by ambiguity. It is part of the language we speak.
I have the temerity to suggest that lawyers make a better living from ambiguity.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

End of topic.
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