Isotope signatures differ for

joannaz

Member
Chinese-Mandarin
Hi there,

I have some difficulties understanding one sentence in the following. And I can give the lick of the whole text here. Can anybody offer some help?

The sentence:

Isotope signatures differ for plants that live beneath the closed rainforest canopy than for plants from the open plains.

Link: http://www.scientificamerican.com/p...ains-double-known-rainforest-occupation-time/

I used to think the word 'differ' can be used only to compare between 2 things. So I used to think, the meaning of this sentence is, the difference between isotope signatures of human remains and rainforest plants is smaller than that between human remains and plants from open plains. (I hope you have got my meaning)

But it seems strange. Now I guess the word 'differ' is used here to describe the variety of plants, that the plants live beneath the rainforest canopy is more 'various' than plants on open plains.

Which one is correct? Thank you so much.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The sentence you quote seems to me to contain an error. With than, I expect a comparative, such as differ ... more than / less than, but I don't know whether either of them fits your context.

    Here is your sentence with the surrounding sentences, for a total of 4 sentence, as our forum allows. Maybe more context will help people answer you.
    Researchers measured carbon and oxygen isotopes in the remains of 26 humans found in the Sri Lankan rainforest. The bodies were some 20,000 years old.

    Isotope signatures differ for plants that live beneath the closed rainforest canopy than for plants from the open plains. Any animals that eat those plants then also carry those forest isotopes—as did the remains, showing that these humans subsisted on tropical forest vegetation.

     
    Last edited:

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I don't like the original sentence. I've re-arranged it so the meaning is clearer.

    Isotope signatures for plants that live beneath the closed rainforest canopy are different from those for plants that live in the open plains.

    Cross-posted.
     

    joannaz

    Member
    Chinese-Mandarin
    Thank you, C, for presenting the context for me here.

    For me I feel the sentence is strange as well, but I just can not be sure if it contains error.

    If we say:

    Isotope signatures differ for plants that live beneath the closed rainforest canopy more than for plants from the open plains.

    Is it correct?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If we say:

    Isotope signatures differ for plants that live beneath the closed rainforest canopy more than for plants from the open plains.

    Is it correct?
    That is grammatically correct, but has a very different meaning from what the speaker means.
    Intended: The isotope signature of rainforest plants is different from the isotope signature of open plains plants. All rainforest plants have one isotope signature. All open plains plants have one isotope signature.
    Yours: Rainforest plants have different isotope signatures. Open plains plants have different isotope signatures. The difference between two rainforest plants is greater than the difference between two open plains plants.
    This is a transcript of a podcast (someone speaking). People make mistakes like this while speaking and don't go back and edit themselves.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top