Monday, September 19, 2016

the ambiguity of English headlines

Over at ROK Drop, the following headline:

"Chinese Man Accused of Stabbing Korean Woman Praying at a Church in Jeju"

Headlines often leave out connectors like relative pronouns, relying on participles to do the semantic heavy-lifting. Above, we see two participles: "accused" and "praying." Implied are the verb "is"* (before "accused") and the relative-pronoun phrase "who was" (before "praying").

But without those phrases, another possible reading of the above headline is:

Chinese Man, Accused of Stabbing Korean Woman, is Praying at a Church in Jeju

I love English.

*Or "has been," for that matter.

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