• Luke
    146
    I came across this statement yesterday and found it interesting. Does the statement in the discussion title make any sense? If not, what's the problem with it?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    Was that statement tweeted by Donald Trump after he was first accused of colluding with the Russians?
  • S
    6.3k
    From what I've gathered, the sentence is ungrammatical, but it is peculiar in that it doesn't strike most people at first. People can make sense of it, or at least think that they can, yet nevertheless, it is ungrammatical. It's like the converse of, "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously", which is grammatical, but doesn't make sense.

    The sentence is ambiguous. It could be interpreted as saying that the number of people who have been to Russia is greater than the number of times that I have been to Russia, or that there is a large number of people who have been to Russia a greater number of times than the number of times that I have been to Russia, or that the number of people who have been to Russia a greater number of times than the number of times that I have been to Russia is greater than the number of times that I have been to Russia, or maybe just that other people have been to Russia more times than I have been to Russia.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    I suppose it could be interpreted as "more people than I have been to Russia".

    Compare with "more fish are eaten by sharks than people are" which would mean "more fish than people are eaten by sharks".
  • S
    6.3k
    I suppose it could be interpreted as "more people than I have been to Russia".Michael

    Yes, or that. :grin:

    Which is to say that other people have been to Russia, and collectively they number greater than I do. Or that the number of people who have been to Russia is greater than one, and that number includes myself and others.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    Which is to say that other people have been to Russia, and collectively they number greater than I do. Or that the number of people who have been to Russia is greater than one, and that number includes myself and others.Sapientia

    Or just "other people besides me have been to Russia".
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Or,
    Other people have been to Russia more (times) than I have.

    Or,
    More people have been to Russia than I have (had hot dinners).

    Or,
    If it doesn't quite make sense, it isn't quite a lie.
  • S
    6.3k
    Or just "other people besides me have been to Russia".Michael

    But it looks like it's attempting to explicitly state a numerical comparison whereby the one is greater than the other, and that wording doesn't capture that.

    Anyway, a better wording would be, "People been have Russia more to than have I", because I say so. /discussion
  • Baden
    6.9k
    So (considering the implied ellipsis) the sentence says:

    More people have been to Russia than I have (been to Russia).

    "Been to" in this context means "visited".

    So, it's:

    More people have visited Russia than I have (visited Russia).

    The problem is the incongruent asymmetry of subject and the concomitant incongruent symmetry of (ellipted) object. In this type of comparison the subject of the main verb "visited" (or "been to") (when the main verb does not vary across both clauses in the sentence) should match in type and vary in some quality, and the object of the verb should represent the varying quality. In this case, "location visited".

    As in "More people have visited Russia than have visited Bhutan."

    i) The subject is a proportion of people in general.
    ii) The comparison concerns proportions of those people visiting one place as opposed to another.

    To make the comparison about I/me, the sentence could be rearranged to something like:

    "Most people have been to Russia more times than I." (Meaningful, but necessarily untrue given most people have never been to Russia.)

    tl;dr: The sentence as written is meaningless but cross-pollinates meaningful sentences in a misleading way.

    More people have been to Russia than I have (had hot dinners).unenlightened

    You can't ellipt unknown information though. And this would, in any case, need to be rephrased to: "The number of people who have visited Russia is greater than the number of hot dinners I have had" to be clearly symmetrical.
  • S
    6.3k
    Yes you can. I can ellipt more unknown information than you've had hot dinners.

    You can't (yes you can) ellipt unknown information though (I'm lying). And this would (no it wouldn't) in any case have to rephrased to: "The number of people who have visited Russia is greater than the number of hot dinners I have had" to be properly symmetrical (ignore me, I don't know what I'm talking about).Baden
  • Baden
    6.9k


    Anderson Cooper made me do it. He's had more hot Russian dinners than Trump and the CIA put together.
  • frank
    1.8k
    It's not breaking any rules of grammar. As for what it means: look to context of utterance.

    If it was computer generated, then just stand there flabergasted at the concept of an unintentional utterance.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    More people have visited Russia than I have (visited Russia).

    The problem is the incongruent asymmetry of subject and the concomitant incongruent symmetry of (ellipted) object. In this type of comparison the subject of the main verb "visited" (or "been to") (when the main verb does not vary across both clauses in the sentence) should match in type and vary in some quality, and the object of the verb should represent the varying quality. In this case, "location visited".
    Baden

    What about my example: "more fish are eaten by sharks than people are"? This is "more fish are eaten by sharks than people are [eaten by sharks]". Is this congruent? Surely this just means "more fish than people are eaten by sharks"?

    If so, then what about "more people have visited Russia than fish have"? This is "more people have visited Russia than fish have [visited Russia]". Is this congruent? Surely this just means "more people than fish have visited Russia"?
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    I have more visited Russia than anyone. I am a tremendous visitor, and when I visit somewhere, it stays visited.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    781
    Does the statement in the discussion title make any sense?Luke
    More people know the answer to that question than I do.
  • Baden
    6.9k


    The first example construction you gave is in the passive voice. In the passive, subject and object swap places.

    If so, then what about "more people have visited Russia than fish have"?Michael

    "I" am a person. A fish isn't. That makes this a different type of comparison.

    It's worth more thought though. I'll get back to it.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    "I" am a person. A fish isn't. That makes this a different type of comparison.Baden

    I'm not sure why that would make a difference. More men live in London than Englishmen live.
  • Baden
    6.9k


    Hm. So, that would translate down to:

    "More people have been to Russia than Englishmen have been to Russia."

    Which does seem OK. Though:

    "More people have been to Russia than one person has been to Russia."

    Starts to sound odd though is seemingly as logical.

    And

    "More people have been to Russia than I have been to Russia."

    Confuses because of the crossing of expectations with regard to subject and object.

    Interesting. Something missing from my analysis then. I'll have a look at it again when I get some time.
  • Michael
    7.4k
    More people than @Baden have tried and failed to argue against me.
  • Baden
    6.9k


    Neither meaning nor grammar is exactly right or wrong. You can shade from obviously correct grammar and clear meaning all the way to the polar opposite. So, it's not hard to find in-betweeny stuff. The fun is in not in saying it's right or wrong then but in figuring out what's going on with the rules and our intuitions.
  • Baden
    6.9k


    Yeah, there's also that Russian sleeper agent who shills for Trump on here. Can't remember his name. I'm in good company anyhow. :halo:
  • Baden
    6.9k
    More people than Baden have tried and failed to argue against me.Michael

    (By the way, I presume you mean "More people than Baden have tried and failed to win an argument against me". At least give me and the Russian agent some credit!)
  • frank
    1.8k
    Neither meaning nor grammar is exactly right or wrong..Baden

    That ain't right!
  • Baden
    6.9k
    I suppose it could be interpreted as "more people than I have been to Russia".Michael

    So, following that route:

    The issue seems to parallel subject/object confusions such as replacing "He traveled to Russia more quickly than I (did)" with "He traveled to Russia more quickly than me" (which though common usage is less clearly logical and too close to the semantically distinct "He traveled to Russia more quickly than (to) me." (Maybe I'm in a further away country. Odd. But logical.) But this example pertains more specifically to extent of ellipsis and aux vs main verb uses of "to have".

    So, writing

    "More people have been to Russia than I."

    Seems to be the solution avoiding some ambiguous association. We ellipt the main verb and its auxiliary to avoid the auxiliary resonating with the main verb meaning of "to have" as applied to the subject "people".

    Consider the sentences:

    1) "More people have been to Russia than I have counted." [Aux verb "has" + main verb "to count" + anaphoric (backward) reference from main verb: (The subject of counting is "people". And you cannot ellipt "counted" and retain the meaning.)]

    vs.

    2) "More children have been to Russia than I have (children)." [Main verb "to have" + object (children) (No anaphoric reference)]. You can ellipt "children" because the noun has been given and it's logical if somewhat confusing.You cannot ellipt "have" though because it is given as an auxilliary verb in the first clause and a main verb in the second. (lack of symmetry across clauses).]

    vs.

    3) "More people have been to Russia than I have been to Russia." Here, "have" is employed as an aux verb and symmetrical across clauses, and as the following main verb "been to" is also the same, it's logical to go for maximum ellipsis, so as not to confuse this form with the kind of limited ellipsis of the last example (that limiting ellipsis explicative of a lack of symmetry across forms of "to have").

    This bring us to:

    "More people have been to Russia than I."

    Which sounds more natural and logical.

    tl;dr The issue regards the logical choice of maximum ellipsis as pertains to symmetry across clauses especially regarding the aux vs. main verb uses of "to have".

    tl;dr 2: The default ellipsis is maximal ellipsis. Not maximally ellipting when an alternative structure maximally ellipted shares the extent of the partial ellipsis of the structure you're using sounds unnatural due to a kind of false resonance/garden path effect.
  • Luke
    146
    A study of this statement (and others like it?) can be found here, although I didn't bother to read too much of it.

    A possibly more esteemed opinion of the matter is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihuJM8wVJw4.
  • Akanthinos
    1k
    If "I" could mean a larger quantity of people than one, then the sentence could be parsed and be found to be both valid and true.

    Since the normal usage of "I" never refers to a multitude of people, semantically, it doesnt work.
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