ascribed the part to Airlines Flight 370. [ascribe]

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learnersuper

Banned
Chinese - Hong Kong
I am suspecting an usage error of "ascribe" in this article:

When a wing section of a Boeing 777 washed up on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion last month, the Malaysian government quickly ascribed the part to missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
I checked dictionaries and the definitions of "ascribe" are that if one ascribe [A] to , then either caused [A] or or that [A] is a quality of . No definitions of "ascribe" fitting the usage in the article could be found. What do native speakers think?
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    If you look in the WordReference dictionary, you'll find that the first definition is:

    to believe or consider (something or someone) to be the cause or source of (something)

    So: When a wing section of a Boeing 777 washed up on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion last month, the Malaysian government quickly believed that the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was the source of the part.
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    We use 'ascribed' when on the basis of some evidence, people have decided that the object belongs to something or someone but they aren't sure of the identification.

    If I said that the backpack was ascribed to Tom, I would mean that people said the backpack belonged to Tom, maybe because it had Tom's books in it, but that we didn't know for certain that the packback was Tom's. (In real life, I would probably not use 'ascribe' to express this idea in this sentence.)

    Going back to the original sentence: I agree with Keith Bradford in post #2 -- we use 'ascribe' when we believe something to be true, but we lack certainty.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The difference between

    1. "... the Malaysian government quickly ascribed the part to missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370." And
    2. "The backpack found on the bus was ascribed to Tom."
    is that in the case of 1., we have a huge amount of context. From this context we can construct our meaning:

    1a the Malaysian government quickly ascribed the part [as being from the] missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 [that crashed in the Indian ocean and must have broken up.]
    We also know that
    • the Malaysian government is anxious to obtain some evidence for the theory about the location of the wreckage, and
    • we know that the Malaysian government would not state categorically that the part was from Flight 370.
    In the case of Tom’s rucksack, we know nothing – there is no context. It sounds as if Tom, as part of a deception, placed a rucksack that was not his on the bus. It would be the deed of placing it there that is “ascribed”.
     
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