Double anaphoric difficulties

From the NYT in print this morning, in Adam Nossiter’s “Nigeria Puts Its Hope in Former Strongman as a Scorned Leader Exits”:

(1) Despite being one of the world’s leading oil producers, Nigerians have lined up miserably at gas stations because of the fuel shortage, which has been choking the Nigerian economy, the continent’s largest, for weeks.

To start with, it’s an X-SPAR (a “dangling modifier”), in which the subjectless predicative despite being one of the world’s leading oil producers fails to have the subject Nigerians of the main clause provide the referent for the missing subject in the modifier. (Inventory of postings on danglers here.)

In fact, thngs are worse than that: though the possessive Nigeria’s in something like Nigeria’s people could serve to provide this referent, in (1), the reference to Nigeria in tucked inside the derived noun Nigerian — inside an “anaphoric island”, where it’s hard to find. (On islands, see here.)

On possessive controllers for SPARs, see this posting, where I note that X-SPARs in which a possessive determiner in the subject of the main clause serves as controller (supplies the referent for the missing subject) are generally fine, unless the full subject is itself a plausible controller. There I took off on the example:

Z4.72. Like many Iowa farmers, [Gary] Plunkett’s corn harvest numbers have gyrated …

which is an X-SPAR, but fine (except for people who cannot process examples other than in term of explicit “rules” they have internalized).

While I was putting this material together, the staff at the NYT fixed the whole business (and also changed the title). In the on-line story, “Former Strongman, Taking Over Presidency, Raises Hope in Nigeria”, someone has supplied an explicit subject in the modifier:

(2) Despite their country’s being one of the world’s leading oil producers, Nigerians have lined up …

No X-SPAR, no anaphoric island.

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