a beautiful king's daughter

bonbon2023

Senior Member
Korean(south)
Moreover, in the s-genitive in modifier relation any further premodification can only modify the possessum, but not the possessor, i.e. it is the daughter that is beautiful (20a) and the license that is old (21a). In contrast, in the determiner reading it is the possessor that is modified by the adjective, i.e. it is the king who is beautiful (20b) and the driver who is old (21b).

(20)
a. a beautiful [king's daughter]
b. [a beautiful king's] daughter
(21)
a. the old [driver's license]
b. [the old driver's] license

Source: Genitive Variation in English: Conceptual Factors in Synchronic and Diachronic Studies by Annette Rosenbach
I've always reckoned phrases like 'a beautiful king's daughter' as [a beautiful king's] daughter, i.e. it is the king who is beautiful, but have never considered the phrase can give the information that daughter is beautiful.
Do you really perceive 'a beautiful king's daughter' as either 'it is the king who is beautiful' or 'it is the daughter who is beautiful'?
 
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  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The adjective beautiful is almost always used for women (and babies), not men. The king is a man. His daughter is female. Therefore, I would associated this word with the daughter, even though that might not be precisely correct as regards grammar.

    When it comes to the driver's license, we don't have that clue. Both drivers and licenses can be old. I'd look for more context. If it's "it's time to renew my old driver's license," I would assume that old refers to the license. If it's "the old driver's license was going to expire next month," in an article about an 86-year-old man losing control of his car and crashing into a store window, I would assume it refers to the driver.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Logically, you're absolutely right, Bonbon, but the fact is that men - and that includes kings - are very seldom described as "beautiful." I won't say never, but it's a pretty rare thing. So if I read this, I'd assume the intended meaning was "the beautiful daughter of the king." But "beautiful king's daughter" is a very clumsy phrase, and I wouldn't write it this way.

    Driver's license, by the way, is an entirely different deal because it's a well-known noun phrase. When I hear "old driver's license," I assume this means "a driver's license that is old," and I would say "old driver's license" without a second thought.

    (Cross-posted with Egmont)
     
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    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    I confronted this problem years ago when I found "French wine cake" at my local grocery store.

    To this day, I do not know if it was cake make with French wine, or French cake made with wine.

    But it was good, so who cares? :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Do you really perceive 'a beautiful king's daughter' as either 'it is the king who is beautiful' or 'it is the daughter who is beautiful'?
    I perceive it as referring to the female offspring (of undetermined appearance) of a really gorgeous royal guy.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I interpreted it automatically as meaning "a king's beautiful daughter" - which would be a much, much better way of expressing it.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    On the other hand, if in your variety of English, you talk about a driving licence (rather than a driver's licence), you might be more tempted to think of the phrase as being to do with the licence belonging to your old driver.
     

    JuanEscritor

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    On the other hand, if in your variety of English, you talk about a driving licence (rather than a driver's licence), you might be more tempted to think of the phrase as being to do with the licence belonging to your old driver.
    We use driver's license, but the stress is different with different meanings: an old dríver's-license (a license that is old); an old dríver's lícense (the license of an old driver).

    As to the OP, I first interpreted the king to be beautiful; but as I waited for the thread to load, I realized the other interpretation, and I now cannot interpret it as anything other than ambiguous.

    JE
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I feel that English has enough genuine difficulties for us to get hung up about a beautiful king's daughter.

    The phrase is clearly ambiguous. The ambiguity could be easily avoided, as people have mentioned, by saying a king's beautiful daughter. If this way out has been avoided, then I'd assume that the ambiguity was a desired effect in the writing or speech.

    As other people have also mentioned, we can get out of these problems by judicious use of hyphens.
     
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