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Prepositions in final position

From: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 14:52:45 +0100
Message-ID: <463DDDAD.3010507@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
To: public-html@w3.org, www-html@w3.org

Someone (I forget who) earlier wrote that the use
of a preposition in final position cannot affect
the meaning of a sentence.  The following example
shows that whilst it does not actually affect the
meaning of the sentence, it most certainly reduces its
intelligibility.

 >   These are the same customers you are referring to whom Microsoft thought
 >   would need MS Bob and the Talking Paperclip?   One thing is to give them
 >   enough rope to hang themselves,  but a boobytrapped thermonuclear weapon
 >   running on a rand(time) countdown… Is that really wise?   - Me to MS rep.

My initial parsing led me to believe that the speaker
had in mind the mental model "These are the same customers
you are referring",  "to whom Microsoft thought would need
MS Bob and the Talking Paperclip?", rather than the intended
"These are the same customers you are referring to"
"whom Microsoft thought would need MS Bob and the Talking
Paperclip?"  The first is, of course, complete and utter nonsense,
but "to whom" embedded in an apparently literate construction
does lead the reader to believe that "to whom" was intended
and not "to, whom" !

Philip Taylor
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2007 13:52:48 UTC

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