Decoding Anaphors

by Brian on February 14, 2004

Context can be so crucial in figuring out what a sentence means, even in subconscious processing. When I first scanned this I thought Ed Gillespie shouldn’t be so candid in front of reporters.

bq. In prepared remarks, Gillespie attacked Kerry and other Democrats, saying they are readying “the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics.” (From CNN)

I bet our Republican readers did not read it that way!



Curtiss Leung 02.15.04 at 12:37 am

The referent of “they” isn’t clear. But the statement is likely true regardless who “they” are.


Curtiss Leung 02.15.04 at 12:38 am

The referent of “they” isn’t clear. But the statement is likely true regardless of who “they” are.


Jonathan Ichikawa 02.15.04 at 1:03 am

I’m not sure I get it. Are we worried about interpreting the quote to mean that Gillespie’s team is readying a dirty campaign? I think that’d be a very odd way to read that sentence… if I wanted to achieve that ambiguity, I’d have written: “…attacked Kerry and other Democrats, saying they *were* readying…”

Of course, it’s still not very ambiguous, because “Gillespie” is singular here, and therefore an extremely odd antecedant for “they”.

Or am I just missing the point?


Michael 02.15.04 at 3:44 am

Gillespie could be speaking in the plural, referring to himself and his fellow mud-slingers….err, campaingers.


Jeremy Osner 02.15.04 at 4:13 am

Johnny — I don’t see how using the subjunctive voice would make the sentence read as if Gillespie’s statement applied to the GOP rather than the Democrats — if anything it would make it more clear that he was talking about the Democrats.


Finnpundit 02.15.04 at 6:40 am

Hooboy! If all that the American Left can do is analyze grammatical structures for hidden meanings, then the Republicans will surely win this one, hands down.

Give it up, and try to speak like “dumbed-down” average Americans. Because – in the long run – it is the average, working-class Americans that will validate the theories of all you tenured academics in your ivory towers.

And wouldn’t that be as it should be? So, give up the analysis of ambiguity, and trust the direct sign and symbol.

Working classes all over the world have always done so. Perhaps you should learn to ask why….


bad Jim 02.15.04 at 8:55 am

We Americans prefer presidents who aren’t smarter than we are. Isn’t that normal?


Thomas 02.15.04 at 5:21 pm

Republican readers? Plural?

I thought I was the only one.

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