Yesterday’s One Big Happy has Ruthie confronting an ambiguity that gives rise to misunderstandings (and jokes):

Anthony’s place adverbial in two places can have either of two interpretations: as referring to two locations on his arm, or as referring to two locations where the arm-breaking event took place. Anthony intends the first (the body-location interpretation), Ruthie gets the second (the event-location interpretation).

Intuitively, the adverb has narrower scope in the first interpretation, wider in the second, and this intuition corresponds to what happens when a clause has adverbials of both types: when the adverbials are tightly adjoined to the remainder of the clause, the body-location adverbial comes first, inside, closer to the verb, with the event-location second, outside, further from the verb:

(1a) Kim shot Lee in the arm on Main St. /  (1b) *Kim shot Lee on Main St. in the arm.

The opposite order is possible, but only if the body-location adverbial is loosely adjoined, treated as an afterthought:

(2) Kim shot Lee on Main St.– in the arm.

The obvious analysis is to treat the body-location adverbials as V-modifiers and the event-location adverbials as VP-modifiers.


2 Responses to “Where?”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    So Anthony needs to explain to Ruthie that he broke his arm in two places in one place.

  2. Billy Green Says:

    There is also the 1983 song recorded by Tracy Ullman (written by the late, lamented Kirsty MacColl) called “You Broke My Heart In 17 Places,” with the recurring lyric, “You broke my heart in 17 places / Shepherds Bush was only one.”

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