Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where Was the Girl? - Sentence Ambiguity Diagrammed

Harry ordered a drink for the girl at the bar.

The girl at the bar is the one Harry ordered the drink for.

Harry ordered a drink, at the bar, for the girl (the girl sitting at a table? the girl in the bathroom? the girl across the street?).
Syntax really can be fun.


Faldone said...

Boy, howdy! I've got to really strain to even think that the girl might be anywhere but at the bar. I'm trying out different ways of emphasizing different parts of the sentence in a spoken mode and I can't come up with one that suggests the girl isn't at the bar.

Tim Morley said...

@faldone: context can do that for you instead, e.g. "Harry left the hotel room to get drinks for everyone. The men were happy with beers from the off-licence*, but *she* wanted a fancy cocktail, so Harry ordered a drink for the girl at the bar."

*"liquor store" if you're from that side of the Atlantic.

Wordacious said...

Thank you, Tim, for the wonderful example. As long as you are walking up to the bar, I would love a drink please; the waitress is taking way too long.

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