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either - does it mean "both" in this case?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Magdelena Ilieva, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. Magdelena Ilieva New Member

    bulgarian
    hi guys:) does "either" mean "both" in this case:

    "The working languages in the scope of the competition are English and German. Contestants must be able to communicate in either language. "

    ?

    please tell me. i think it does.

    best and waiting for your answers,
    magdelena
     
  2. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    I would interpret to mean one or the other. I would expect that if they meant both, they would have said both. ;) But, on reflection, it strikes me as a bit ambiguous.

    Elisabetta
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2008
  3. xymox Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    English, French - Canada
    Hi,

    My interpretation is different, I would say as you have Magdalena, that it means both; in this case.
     
  4. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I agree with Trentina.

    "The working languages in the scope of the competition are English and German. Contestants must be able to communicate in either [language] English or German. "

    To the best of my knowledge, either always implies a choice between two options.
     
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I would interpret either language as meaning both languages in the context given.
     
  6. Magdelena Ilieva New Member

    bulgarian
    This is weird. Most of you are native speakers and you are interpreting it differently. Well what should I do, I don't speak German so if I presume it means "both" I can't compete in the contest...

    Ok, what's the chance for it to mean "both" and what's the chance for it to mean "any of the two" ? Or I can count the number of replies I guess ;)
     
  7. kitenok Senior Member

    I'm with jgagnon on this one. I initially interpreted the intent of the sentence to be that Contestants must be able to communicate either in English [if that is required at a given time] or in German [if that is required at a given time]. The element of choice comes from the fact that one must speak whichever language is appropriate at a given time during the competition.

    True. But by the same token, if they had meant "one of these two languages," they would have said "one of these two languages."

    I think it might be a moebius strip - hopelessly ambiguous. I am already doubting my original interpretation...
     
  8. BODYholic Senior Member

    Singapore
    Chinese Cantonese
    "in either language (singular noun)" - I thought it was obvious. No? :)
     
  9. Magdelena Ilieva New Member

    bulgarian
    Well, I guess I can't be a Contestant then :(
    Thank you, though, you guys are great :)
     
  10. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    :eek: I just changed my mind.

    Kitenok's explanation makes sense and convinced me. I also agree that is far too ambiguous for competition rules.
     
  11. kitenok Senior Member

    Gosh, I had come close to being convinced by your post, Nun-Translator...

    As an editor, if I were to run into this sentence in a document, I would tear out what little is left of my hair. ;)
     
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I think the broader context helps to make the meaning clear.

    No surprise there, then:)
     
  13. Magdelena Ilieva New Member

    bulgarian
    Thanks, everyone, I guess I should start learning German asap :D
     
  14. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    That is precisely the kind of context and background that should have been provided in the very first post. It would have saved all this guessing, fun as it was.
     
  15. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    It might be interesting to check on the German forum as to whether the German version of that statement is interpreted the same way. The English version might have been written by a non-native.

    Given that teams have to be composed of German plus eastern-European filmmakers, I'm still not convinced the statement means contestants must be able to communicate in both English and German.

    Elisabetta
     
  16. kitenok Senior Member

    Elisabetta brings up a very good point. My German is barely rudimentary, but there it is "in einer der beiden Sprache," which surely must mean "in one of the two languages," yes?

    The English on the web site is clearly not native.

    Magdalena - I think you might be eligible after all.
     
  17. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    My German's pretty rusty, but it looks to me as though it's saying "communicate in at least one of the two languages".

    It's definitely worh checking in the German forum, Magdelena!:D

    EDIT: my post crossed with kitenok's, but it looks as though we came to the same conclusion:)
     
  18. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    On either side the river lie
    Long fields of barley and of rye.


    Could that be one side or the other?
    I don't think so.
    And with that understanding of either I would read the original English sentence as requiring effective communication in English and German. Not both at the same time, of course, but either English or German as the occasion demands.

    Of course either may also mean one or other of the two.
    From either side of the street
    With full support from the OED.
     
  19. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    Looks like a murky translation. See discussion here. :)

    Elisabetta
     
  20. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Yes, and what we have to divine from the context here is: whose is the choice? Is it the choice of the contestant, or the choice of the organization to which they are applying?
     
  21. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I love a happy ending:)

    It was an excellent idea of yours, Elisabetta, to look at the German version!

    Pondering further on panj's post, I think that in statements, questions and commands, I'd normally interpret "either" as "each of two" = "both", but that where permission is being sought or granted, I'm more likely to see it as "one of two" = {more or less} "any".

    The chairs are on either side of the table. (both)
    Are the chairs on either side of the table? (both)
    You must put the chairs on either side of the table. (both)
    You may put the chairs on either side of the table. (any)
    May I put the chairs on either side of the table? (any)

    I've just invented this distinction, so it may well not hold water....
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2008
  22. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The German sentence is clear since, in addition to the word beide, a cognate of both meaning "both" and "the two", it uses the word for "at least" as well as the word einer, a cognate of one meaning "one". Without einer, the sentence would refer to being able to speak both languages, but with einer the meaning is unmistakably "at least in one of the two languages".

    But the English sentence is more interesting. I take it to mean "pick either language, and contestants must be able to communicate in it." This means practically the same thing as "contestants must be able to communicate in both languages", but to me it is the "pick one" meaning of either, not the "both" or "one each" meaning in such contexts as:

    There were trees on either side of the boulevard. [trees on both sides]
    An American football field has enormous goalposts at either end. [one goalpost at each end]

    I find Loob's examples interesting too, because most of them seem quite ambiguous to me:

    The chairs are on either side of the table. [either one chair on each side, or chairs on both sides]
    Are the chairs on either side of the table? [on each side, on both sides, or possibly "on either side of the table at all"]
    You must put the chairs on either side of the table. [one on each side, some on each side, or all on whichever side you want]
    You may put the chairs on either side of the table. [one on each side, some on each side, or on whichever side you want]
    May I put the chairs on either side of the table? [one on each side, some on each side, or on whichever side you want]

    But I see the original English sentence as unambiguous ("must be able ... at least in either language" does not work for me), and in disagreement with the German, but changing in either language to in either English or German changes the meaning for me because the combination either ... or ... tells me the choice of one or the other is up to the contestants.
     

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