Error Correction Exercise

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0216monty

Member
Chinese - Cantonese, Mandarin
"There is no material in any language today and in the earliest records of ancient languages shows us language in a new and emerging state."

I identified "shows" is wrong here and I inserted "that" before "shows".

I thought it worked well in this context but my answer was marked wrong. The teacher told me to substitute "showing" for "shows". Both answers look acceptable to me but the teacher had a different opinion.

And the reason he gave me was that the sentence is so long that the way I corrected it could cause confusion. No furthur explanation was given except "it is the standard answer”.

But I don't see any problem with it as both "record" and "language" are used in plural form here, which indicates that "material" is the noun the attributive clause intends to modify.

I want to hear your thoughts on it. Could you explain to me why "that" is unacceptable in this sentence if that is true.

Thanks you.
 
  • parap

    Senior Member
    Mainly US English
    I think the sentence has several problems. Here's two of my alternatives:

    There is no material in any language today and in the earliest records of ancient languages shows us language in a new and emerging state.

    There is no material in any language today and in the earliest records of ancient languages that shows us language in a new and emerging state.

    I'd like to hear other people's input as well.
     

    0216monty

    Member
    Chinese - Cantonese, Mandarin
    Hi, Parap.Thank you for your input and I agree with your amendments to the sentence, although only a maximum of one error is supposed to be found. Anyway we're not doing an exam:)

    I still wonder why "that" is not gramatically viable in this example. (or why "showing" is a better alternative)

    I hope people can shed light on my doubts.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello, monty

    It seems to me that your "that shows" works just as well here as your teacher's "showing" :)

    I see the basic structure of the sentence as
    There is no material [...] showing us language [...] (your teacher's version)
    or
    There is no material [...] that shows us language [...] (your version).

    (By the way, I would replace and with or - but that's a different issue...)
     
    Last edited:

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Monty, here's another vote for "that shows" being at least as good. I'd even go as far as suggesting that "showing" runs a greater risk of confusion : it could be read as "language showing us" rather than "material ... showing us".

    (I would also replace "and", but with "nor" ... but that's a different issue again ;))

    W:)
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    When I reduce the sentence to the bare necessities I get:

    There is no material. ;)

    In my view, the phrase "in any language today and in the earliest records of ancient languages" is an adverbial of place consisting of two conjoined prepositional phrases. It could be replaced with "anywhere".

    If we view the phrase "that shows/showing us language in a new and emerging state", it modifies, or rather, adds specification to material, and it's a sub-clause. We could build other sentences in the same pattern (husband not finding specific beer and complaining to wife):

    There is no beer in the fridge that matches your description. (ambiguous - should the beer or the fridge match the specification?)
    In the fridge there is no beer that matches your description. (unambiguous)
    There is no beer in the fridge matching your description. (ambiguous)
    In the fridge there is no beer matching your description. (unambiguous)

    However, we do run into problems if we say 'There is no beer in the fridge and in the freezer that matches your description.' because I feel we should say 'There is no beer in the fridge or(nor?) in the freezer...'.
    (Edit: I now see that Loob is thinking the same here)

    Loob broke it down even quicker and more beautifully while I was thinking/writing, but all the same:

    I'm still unsure whether 'that shows' or 'showing' are the correct alternatives as I see 'that shows' fitting spoken language, while 'showing' fitting formal written language. Are there no grammatical issues at all involved?

    /Wilma
     
    Last edited:

    0216monty

    Member
    Chinese - Cantonese, Mandarin
    Hello, monty

    It seems to me that your "that shows" works just as well here as your teacher's "showing" :)

    I see the basic structure of the sentence as
    There is no material [...] that shows us language [...] (your teacher's version)
    or
    There is no material [...] that shows us language [...] (your version).

    (By the way, I would replace and with or - but that's a different issue...)
    .

    Thank you, Loob. Yes, that is just the sentence structure in my mind. And I prefer that shows over showing as it somewhat makes more "natural" sense to me. But that is just a matter of personal preference :)

    Yea, or seems to fit the sentence better than of as I recalled the gramatical rules I've learned.

    I assume passages used for error detection exercises were written by native speakers and edited by the test designer to make it look "incorrect".

    For exam purposes, I think it stands to reason that the sentence was rewritten to contain a single grammar mistake.

    But it seems to me that you and Parpa perceive otherwise :)
     

    0216monty

    Member
    Chinese - Cantonese, Mandarin
    When I reduce the sentence to the bare necessities I get:

    There is no material. ;)

    In my view, the phrase "in any language today and in the earliest records of ancient languages" is an adverbial of place consisting of two conjoined prepositional phrases. It could be replaced with "anywhere".

    If we view the phrase "that shows/showing us language in a new and emerging state", it modifies, or rather, adds specification to material, and it's a sub-clause. We could build other sentences in the same pattern (husband complaining to wife):

    There is no beer in the fridge that matches your description.
    OR
    There is no beer in the fridge matching your description.

    However, we do run into problems if we say 'There is no beer in the fridge and in the freezer that matches your description.' because I feel we should say 'There is no beer in the fridge or(nor?) in the freezer...'.

    Still, I think what they're trying to say, originally, is that we have no records of how new and emerging languages have developed, because languages existing today are neither new nor emerging. Furthermore, written records of ancient languages are presumably not from their new and emerging stages, as speech existed long before the art of writing was invented, and we cannot travel back in time to study these early stages of any language.

    /Wilma
    Hi Wilma

    That's an interesting point you have raised about the phrase. Maybe the original author should have broken it down into two or more sentences. Since it looks like it was taken from a science article, it should have been presented in a specific and definite manner:)
     
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