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Reply to "paintings that were on the walls"

@azz posted:

a. They stole the diamonds and precious paintings that were on the walls.

b. The diamonds, and precious paintings that were on the walls, were stolen.

Were all of the precious paintings that were on the walls stolen, or some of them only, or that is unclear?

Many thanks,

Hi, Azz and Ahmed—Thank you, Ahmed, for your useful comments on Azz's pair of sentences here. I'm going to take a somewhat different approach because I think that Azz's question here has strictly to do with syntax and logic.

In (a), it is unclear whether "all of the precious paintings that were on the walls" were stolen or whether only some of them were. It is also unclear in (a) whether the diamonds were on the walls or whether only the precious paintings were.

Syntactically, (a) may be structured in such a way that the noun phrase "diamonds" alone is dominated by the determiner "the", in which case only some of the precious paintings on the wall were stolen.

Alternatively, (a) may be structured such that both noun phrases ("diamonds" and "prescious paintings that were on the walls") are dominated by "the," in which case all of the precious paintings on the wall were stolen.

A third alternative for (a) is that both "diamonds" and "prescious paintings" are dominated by "the" and the conjunction is modified by "that were on the walls," in which case both the diamonds as well as the paintings were on the walls.

In (b), by contrast, it is clear from the punctuation that "prescious paintings that were on the walls" is to be taken separately from "the diamonds." Clearly, only the paintings were on the wall, and only some of them were stolen.

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