box to store rare stones

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box to store rare stones

Post by navi » Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:38 pm

1) Jack stole Tom's guitar to play in small venus.
Is this sentence correct?
Is it ambiguous?
One possible meaning: Jack stole the guitar that belongs to Tom and Tom uses to play in small venues.
Second possible meaning: Jack stole Tom's guitar in order to play it in small venues.


2) Jack stole Tom's box to store rare stones.

Is this one correct?
Is it ambiguous?
One possible meaning: Jack stole the box Tom has and uses for storing rare stones.
Second possible meaning: Jack stole Tom's box in order to store rare stones in it.

Gratefully,
Navi
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:04 pm

Neither 1) nor 2) would come naturally to a native speaker, regardless of the intended meaning.

They would write:

1)

First meaning: Jack stole the guitar that Tom uses for playing in small venues.
Second meaning: Jack stole Tom's guitar {so that he could play / in order to be able to play} in small venues.

2)

First meaning: Jack stole the box that Tom uses for storing rare stones.
Second meaning: Jack stole Tom's box in order to store rare stones [in it*].
---------
* Optional

It seems backward to ask about the ambiguities conveyed by particular wordings without first checking whether anyone would actually say them. Only once they have been validated is there any point in exploring the extent to which they might be ambiguous.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by Phil White » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:29 pm

Erik's comment is valid for these particular sentences.

There are, however, sentences where the construction itself works fine:
"Jack stole Tom's poster to put on the wall."

The meaning, however, is always "in order to".

But although the construction above works, I think most people would actually say:
"Jack stole Tom's poster to put on his wall."

Somehow it seems to round the statement off better, although I am unsure as to why.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:12 am

Phil White wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:29 pm
[...] I think most people would actually say:
"Jack stole Tom's poster to put on his wall."

Somehow it seems to round the statement off better, although I am unsure as to why.
Because it ties the wall more closely to Jack as the agent and beneficiary of his theft of the poster.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by trolley » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:28 pm

It seems that these constructions are purposely vague. The questions are always “are they grammatically correct?” and “are they ambiguous?”. Never do the posters say “if not, how do you make them correct and explicit”. I suspect that’s because they already know how to make them clear. What they really should be asking is “Have I succeeded in writing (or finding) a sentence that is grammatically correct while still maintaining sufficient doubt as to what I actually mean?”
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:47 pm

trolley wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:28 pm
It seems that these constructions are purposely vague. The questions are always “are they grammatically correct?” and “are they ambiguous?”. Never do the posters say “if not, how do you make them correct and explicit”. I suspect that’s because they already know how to make them clear. What they really should be asking is “Have I succeeded in writing (or finding) a sentence that is grammatically correct while still maintaining sufficient doubt as to what I actually mean?”
The whole construct caused me to suspect that it's AI fishing for human responses, as I came to think of "Lumosity", the website that promises to sharpen your brain, while, I suspect, studying it.
Am I paranoid?
Are "they" out to get us?
Time will tell.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by trolley » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:13 pm

You may well be paranoid but that does not mean they aren't out to get you...
https://www.amazon.com/Archie-McPhee-Fo ... B07C169XZT
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:48 pm

You had to bring cats into it as well.
Bella and Arwen conduct nocturnal conferences against us.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by tony h » Mon Jan 07, 2019 12:14 pm

Phil White wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:29 pm
There are, however, sentences where the construction itself works fine:
"Jack stole Tom's poster to put on the wall."

But although the construction above works, I think most people would actually say:
"Jack stole Tom's poster to put on his wall."

Somehow it seems to round the statement off better, although I am unsure as to why.
Without "his" the wall could be any wall eg: the wall of the convent, the office wall etc.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by tony h » Mon Jan 07, 2019 12:59 pm

navi wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 8:38 pm
1) Jack stole Tom's guitar to play in small venus.
Is this sentence correct?
Is it ambiguous?
Is it just me? It was only when reading a response to this that I realised that "small venus" may be a spelling mistake! Oddly I did think "small venus" might have been the name of a club.
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Re: box to store rare stones

Post by navi » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:49 pm

Thank you all very much,

I had misspelt 'venues'. That was a tough one to spot. Tony has a sharp eye!

It is true that I am probably capable of coming up with unambiguous sentences. But I believe that ambiguous sentences are quite common. Context in general disambiguates them. One doesn't even notice the ambiguity. That is true of all languages. All third person pronouns could be considered ambiguous. A speaker is supposed to use them correctly and normally speakers do use them correctly. However, once in a while there is a misunderstanding.


I used to be a translator. I developed an obsession about ambiguous sentences, because there were cases where (admittedly rare) that ambiguity caused trouble. In literary works, ambiguity is at times deliberate. It can be a powerful literary device. A translator has -in theory at least- be able to spot ambiguous sentences.


The problem becomes bigger if one is translating into English. One might use a sentence thinking it is ambiguous and one of its meanings is the desirable one, where actually the sentence is NOT ambiguous and has only an undesired meaning!

In any case, I am not a machine. Merely a human being.


Thank you once again for your contributions.


Respectfully,
Navi
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