High Attachment in the NYT

In an NYT opinion column on Sunday (the 5th), a Jenny Wilkinson piece about her sexual assault at U.Va., including this:

The weak punishment meted out to the student whom the university found responsible for assaulting me doesn’t seem to have been unusual; as far as I know, no one has been expelled after being found responsible for sexual assault by the university.

The crucial part is bolfaced: in the intended reading, the VP being found responsible for sexual assault is modified by by the university (alternatively: being found responsible by the university for sexual assault). But in fact the boldfaced material has another potential reading, in which by the university modifies sexual assault. This would have the modifier by the university parsed with preceding material by Low Attachment (LA), and LA is, ceteris paribus, the default parsing, but in this case that reading is preposterous, so High Attachment (HA) applies, and presumably readers don’t even notice the possibility of LA.

Earlier on this blog, “High Attachment in the political news” of 12/12/14 (again from the NYT), with a selected inventory of postings on HA vs. LA.

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