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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Parsing English

When I first read this sentence:

In Modern Fascism Veith relies on Postman to show how electronic media, particularly television, has eroded linear logic, sustained inquiry, tradition, and deferred gratification.

I thought it meant:

In Modern Fascism Veith relies on Postman to show how electronic media, particularly television, has:
  • eroded linear logic, 
  • sustained inquiry, 
  • tradition, and 
  • deferred gratification.
It took me a second to figure out that what it meant was:

In Modern Fascism Veith relies on Postman to show how electronic media, particularly television, has eroded:
  • linear logic, 
  • sustained inquiry, 
  • tradition, and 
  • deferred gratification.
Which means something completely different. All we would need is an adjective describing tradition to make it completely ambiguous.

From a post by Marcel.

3 comments:

Ole Phat Stu said...

I would have put a colon after 'eroded' to disambiguate it.

Charles Pergiel said...

I would have turned it into a paragraph, but then I would have spaced out half way through and left the reader wondering what the heck I was talking about.

Marcel said...

Interesting that the author is a professor of communications.