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Garden path sentences in other languages?

  Tags: Syntax | Multilingual
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tommus
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 Message 1 of 20
13 March 2012 at 6:12pm | IP Logged 
Garden path sentences "lead you down the garden path". In other words, you usually initially get the wrong meaning from the sentences. They often don't seem to make any sense until you figure them out. They are correct sentences, but you shouldn't write sentences like this if you want them to be easily understood.

Here are some from Wikipedia:

> The horse raced past the barn fell.

> Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

> The old man the boat.

> The man whistling tunes pianos.

> The cotton clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.

> The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families.

> The author wrote the novel was likely to be a best-seller.

> The tomcat curled up on the cushion seemed friendly.

> The man returned to his house was happy.

> The government plans to raise taxes were defeated.

> The sour drink from the ocean.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_path_sentence

Germans call this "Holzwegeffekt".

> Maria legte zu ihren Spargeldern, was sie bei der Spargelernte verdient hatte.

> Bei meinem Haus am Stausee müssen die Staubecken gesäubert werden, am besten mit einem Staubtuch.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holzwegeffekt

The Dutch call them "Intuinzin".

> Ik zag de mensen met die grote verrekijker.

> Ik sloeg meermaals de man met de wandelstok gade.

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuinzin

There are Wikipedia entries for only those three languages. I suppose, in principle, garden path sentences can exist in most or all languages.

Does anyone know if there are some languages, such as perhaps Mandarin, where garden path sentences aren't really possible?

Does anyone know if there are names for garden path sentences in other languages?

Any more good examples in any language?


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GeneMachine
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 Message 2 of 20
13 March 2012 at 8:20pm | IP Logged 
I have no idea about other languages, but I'd like to chime in regarding the German examples. In my opinion, those are not true garden path sentences.

The ambiguity in a garden path sentences arises from different possible grammatical parsings which only resolve themselves at the end of the sentences. E.g., in the first English example, it only becomes clear by reading the "fell", which can only be parsed as predicate, that "raced" is actually not the predicate, but rather a past participle functioning as a noun-modifier on "horse".

In the German examples, the ambiguity arises from different possible readings of composite nouns, e.g. "Staubecken" could be read as "Stau-Becken" or "Staub-Ecken", which, as I may add, is a somewhat contrived example. While grammatically possible to form, who actually does use the word "Staubecke"? That's a case of orthographic ambiguity, but not of the pseudoambiguity exhibited by a true garden path sentence.

The German Wikipedia page on ambiguity (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehrdeutigkeit) gives a better example with the relative clause "..., dass der Entdecker von Amerika erst im Jahr 1850 erfuhr." Here you get led to the assumption that "von Amerika" refers to "Entdecker", just to realize in the end, that it refers to "erfuhr". It's not the discoverer of America, it is just some discoverer of something unspecified who never heard about America before 1850.
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Ellsworth
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 Message 3 of 20
13 March 2012 at 11:39pm | IP Logged 
Another German example. Denk mal und Denkmal
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Majka
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 Message 4 of 20
14 March 2012 at 1:44am | IP Logged 
Czech doesn't have garden path sentences as such. I suspect that any inflecting language has very few to zero garden path sentences, depending on how big the declension and conjugation system has grown.

The only ambiguity one can find in Czech is lexical ambiguity (equivalent of "John went to the bank.") and local ambiguity - "old men and women". This is one of the few equivalents of "panda eats, shoots and leaves" at the same time, the well known one would be simply wrong but with unchanged meaning.
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Ari
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 Message 5 of 20
14 March 2012 at 9:27am | IP Logged 
tommus wrote:
Does anyone know if there are some languages, such as perhaps Mandarin, where garden path sentences aren't really possible?

They're definitely possible in Mandarin. The isolating nature of the language together with the weird writing system means garden path sentences aren't too hard to construct. They're called 花園路徑句 according to my dictionary, which literally translates as "garden path sentence". Mandarin Wikipedia doesn't seem to have an article on it, though, but I can construct one or two on the fly:

一朵花了那麼多錢
波長得越來越大

The second one works better in Cantonese, in which case it's also a little bit naughty.
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manish
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 Message 6 of 20
14 March 2012 at 1:17pm | IP Logged 
I found one (I think) in Spanish, while trying to brush up on the language with some easy reading.

Hay, sobre todo, campos de naranjos, que en primavera se llenan de flores blancas y naranjas.

It's not "white and orange flowers", it's "white flowers and oranges".



Edited by manish on 14 March 2012 at 1:17pm

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mrwarper
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 Message 7 of 20
14 March 2012 at 1:40pm | IP Logged 
Actually, it can be both "white flowers and oranges" and "white and orange flowers". Good!

However, I'm not sure it qualifies as "garden path". These are supposed to take the reader down the way until (s)he stumbles on something and realizes the sentence doesn't make sense as he is reading it, thus making him re-read the sentence. That doesn't happen with the flowers one, which can be read both ways, just like

"old men and women" can be both "old men and old women" or "women and old men".

An old joke says
"¿Qué animal es dos veces animal?"
"El gato: es gato y además araña".

"You know what's the animal that's two-fold an animal?"
"The cat: it is a cat and it will scratch you" (sounds the same as "it is a spider")

there are more variants, but this is just bordering the "garden path" category, which AFAIK has no name in Spanish. I'm sure I'll come up with a fair and square one (a sentence, not a name) at some point, though.

Edited by mrwarper on 14 March 2012 at 1:41pm

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manish
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 Message 8 of 20
14 March 2012 at 1:51pm | IP Logged 
Sure it can be both, but in that sentence it's only supposed to be "white flowers and oranges" (since orange trees don't have orange-colored flowers, AFAIK).

And I did read it wrong at first, having to do a second take. Since orange trees only have white flowers, the first interpretation didn't make sense...

Edited by manish on 14 March 2012 at 1:53pm



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