on the three sides

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on the three sides

Post by azz » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:47 pm

a. The conflict claimed about two hundred lives on all sides.
b. The conflict claimed about two hundred lives on the three sides.


Do these mean

1. all in all there were two hundred lives lost
or
2. there were two hundred lives lost on each side
?

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c. The feud claimed ten lives on both sides.
d. The feud claimed ten lives on the two sides.

Do these mean

3. all in all there were ten lives lost.
o
4. there were ten lives lost on each side
?


Many thanks.
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Re: on the three sides

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:48 pm

Context, etc.: I feel as if we're constantly being put in the position of having to repeat ourselves here about how it's impossible to definitively parse an ambiguous construction unless sufficient context is available to clarify the meaning. (Indeed, your question implicitly acknowledges the importance of context.)

Otherwise, with a small effort those sentences could be constructed in such a way that their intended meaning would be immediately apparent, e.g.

a) --> The conflict claimed about two hundred lives overall

b) --> i) The conflict among the three sides claimed a total of about two hundred lives


or

ii) The conflict claimed about two hundred lives on each of the three sides

c) --> The feud involving the two sides claimed a total of ten lives

d) --> The feud claimed ten lives on each of the two sides
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Re: on the three sides

Post by Phil White » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:59 pm

Erik is right.

There is also an argument that no lives were lost at all. Since the sentences are devoid of any context that would relate them to a real (or, indeed, fictional) event, they can only be seen as notional and hence lacking any substantive meaning. That being the case, there was no conflict or feud to which we can assign these sentences, and therefore no resultant deaths.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

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