based on accounts of several travelers, the authors(illogical modifier )

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Oswinw011

Senior Member
Chinese
Based on accounts of several travelers, the authors of the latest book on Polynesian history have painted a vivid and detailed picture of mysterious Easter island where, centuries ago, the Rapa Nui people erected gigantic monolithic sculptures of humanoid faces.(GMAT)

Hi,
Do you think of, as the GMAT answer did, the highlighted phrase as awkward and as illogically modifying the noun Authors?

If so, do you think the following sentence I tried improve? Thanks.

The authors of the latest book on Polynesian history have, based on accounts of several travelers, painted a vivid and detailed picture of mysterious Easter island where, centuries ago, the Rapa Nui people erected gigantic monolithic sculptures of humanoid faces.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Do you think of, as the GMAT answer did, the highlighted phrase as awkward and as illogically modifying the noun Authors?
    The phrase functions as an adverb, and placing an adverb at the beginning of a clause is generally fine. However, since it is a participle phrase, we might expect it to function as an adjective, modifying the subject.

    Personally, I see no problem here, if we accept that the phrase is an adverb. If it is an adjective, then it has to modify "book", in which case both the original and your alternative are wrong.
     

    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    1.The phrase functions as an adverb, and placing an adverb at the beginning of a clause is generally fine.
    2.However, since it is a participle phrase, we might expect it to function as an adjective, modifying the subject.
    Do you think it's ambiguous since you have two interpretations, one being incorrect?

    I don't get how GMAT defines what's wrong and right. Here's an example:

    (They) insist such a (DNA) databank must come with guarantees that no one be denied employment or insurance based on genetic makeup. (US News & World Report, Dec. 2, 2002, p. 60)

    I guess we agree the bold phrase is modifying the verb. The example is quoted from a book specializing in the usage of English vocabularies and the book also provides half a dozen examples to prove that based on used as an adverb is not uncommon, as has been in part confirmed by your explanation in #3 .

    But unfortunately, in accordance with the GMAT guidance, these examples might be perceived to have included the same mistake as in the op.

    Im in over my head with GMAT's criterion.
     
    Last edited:

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I suspect that the original intention may have been for the phrase in question to act as an adjective for "picture", but unfortunately so much else has been packed into the sentence that there is nowhere satisfactory that it can go. The least bad option (if not breaking it up into smaller and simpler sentences) is probably immediately after "picture", if enclosed in a pair of commas.

    The genetic example is unsatisfactory because the placement of the "based on"-phrase could be taken to suggest that it's an adjective for "(employment or) insurance", rather than the no doubt intended adverb for "denied".
     

    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    the placement of the "based on"-phrase could be taken to suggest that it's an adjective for "(employment or) insurance", rather than the no doubt intended adverb for "denied".
    Wow, then how do I use Based on as an adverb in a sentence? It seems like wherever the "based on" goes in a sentence, it always causes confusion.
     
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