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It is possible to be ambiguous -- "(the existence of) battling gods was not
considered unusual". Which was why it took about 5 milliseconds to register.
Or, to remove that potential source of clarity, we can substitute a singular
noun in that position.
Though thank you for the explanation! Does anyone know any other language
with such a potential muddle?

Eugene

On Sat, Oct 18, 2008 at 7:34 PM, Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> On Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 22:29, Eugene Oh <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Christophe's post contained the clause "battling gods was not considered
> > unusual", which made me a little confused for a while: since when did it
> > become standard fare for humans to challenge the preeminence of deities?
> > Then it struck me, after approximately 5 milliseconds. It also reminded
> me
> > of the other thread about participles. I gave it a brief thought, and
> don't
> > think Latin, Greek or any of the Romance languages have such an
> ambiguity.
> > Neither do Chinese, Japanese or Korean. Does German? Or is English is
> only
> > language with such a muddle?
>
> English doesn't even have that muddle, unless I'm misunderstanding
> your ambiguity -- the interpretation "gods who do battle = not
> unusual" needs a plural verb in my 'lect ("battling gods *were* not
> considered unusual).
>
> German has inflections, so an attributive participle would need an
> ending ("Streitend_e_ Götter waren nicht ungewöhnlich"). Also, its
> nominalisations for "process or habit of verb-ing" look like
> infinitives rather than participles -- compare "Singing is fun" with
> "Singen macht Spaß" (literally, "to-sing makes fun"), removing that
> possibility for ambiguity. You'd have "Streiten gegen die Götter war
> nicht ungewöhnlich", or something similar.
>
> Plus, I don't think you can have a direct-object construction --
> something along the lines of "Insulting the gods is normal" would turn
> either into "Die Götter zu beschimpfen ist normal" or "Das Beschimpfen
> der Götter ist normal" -- the former with a clause as subject ("To
> insult the gods is normal") and the second with a nominalisation of
> the verb as subject, but with the original object turned into a
> genitive ("Insulting of the gods is normal"). (The ambiguity there
> being whether the genitive represents the original subject or the
> original object of the nominalised verb.)
>
> Cheers,
> --
> Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]>
>