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November 05, 2010


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Thank you, Michael, Amy, and Nancy, for letting this wonderful
Quantifier-Crossing sentence out into the firmament:

Fifteen million men run a small business completely alone.

and thus also its nonsolitary root sentence:

Fifteen million men run a small business.

The "completely alone" part adds to the contradiction and forces the reading that's intended -- (∀ man) (∃ business), pronounced "for every man [of 15 million] there is [at least] one [distinct] business", but this sentence, like all clauses containing both a universal and an existential quantifier, is still technically syntactically ambiguous, as the silly interpretation of the second sentence shows.

The silly (∃ business) (∀ man) quantifier order, pronounced "there is [at least] one [distinct] business, for all 15 million men" implies that the business is run by 15 million men ("completely alone", in the original, which rises above "silly" to "mythical"). It'd have to be a really damn BIG kind of small business, but what the hell, that's neither syntax nor semantics.

Dear John M. Lawler: I believe yours is the most erudite comment I've ever received. Thank you!

I am agog. Or: I man agog.

Always love it when I'm doing random word searches ("mantyhose" this time) and your blog pops up. Hadn't seen mansplain yet either. Hope you are well.
Go Giants!


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