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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Criminal Sentence 305: Linguists Can Write Awkwardly

I'm reading a book about the origins of English. The author is making the point that many linguists don't think that Welsh, Cornish, and Celtic had any influence on English. He, on the other hand, feels that these languages are related. The author came up with a really weird sentence as he was discussing why linguists dismiss these languages so easily:

"Frankly, another likely factor is that Irish, Welsh, and Cornish are not languages anyone is apt to become familiar with who is not of Celtic ancestry."

I had to read that a few times. Of course, all it comes down to is a misplaced modifier. The "who" clause does not modify "with." It modifies "anyone." I was surprised that a linguist would create such an odd sentence. Let's match things up:

"Frankly, another likely factor is that Irish, Welsh, and Cornish are not languages anyone who is not of Celtic ancestry is apt to become familiar with."

Grammatically okay but still hard to get (plus there are four "to be" verbs, which make the sentence wordy and dull). Let's try again:

"Frankly, linguists without Celtic ancestry are likely not familiar with Irish, Welsh, and Cornish."

I hope that is more intelligible.

1 comment:

Myk said...

There, that's better. Amazing how that can be much shortened.