The Wehrmacht soldiers swore an oath ...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by KnightMove, Jun 19, 2007.

  1. KnightMove

    KnightMove Senior Member

    German/Austria
    Have a look at this sentence:

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as did the Wehrmacht soldiers."

    What does the subordinate clause express?

    a) The Wehrmacht soldiers swore an oath to Adolf Hitler.
    b) The Wehrmacht soldiers swore an oath to their country.
    c) Both is possible, the sentence is ambiguous.
     
  2. Trisia

    Trisia Senior Member

    București
    Romanian
    I vote ambiguous :D

    I don't get it...
     
  3. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    The sentence is ambiguous in writing.
    In speech, the inflexion of the voice would make a difference.

    The truth is that all German soldiers and civil servants swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
    The revelant decree dates from 1934. The wording of the Waffen SS oath was slightly different.

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers, and the Wehrmacht soldiers, swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country."

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, and so did the Wehrmacht soldiers."

    "Rather than to their country, the Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, as did the Wehrmacht soldiers."
     
  4. KnightMove

    KnightMove Senior Member

    German/Austria
    Inflexion... you mean, a long pause after the first comma, or one after the second comma, change the meaning?
     
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I'd go for a., if I trusted the writer. If I didn't, I'd vote for c.

    If I was writing it and wanted it to mean a., I'd put:

    "Like the Wehrmacht soldiers, the Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country."

    If I wanted it to mean b., I'd put:

    Unlike the Wehrmacht soldiers, the Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country.
     
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I find it ambiguous. For a reason that I cannot explain, however, I would not find ambiguity if the word order were slightly changed, and the sentence read like this:

    The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as the Wehrmacht soldiers did.

    I would take that sentence to mean that the Wehrmacht swore an oath to their country, while the Waffen-SS swore an oath to Hitler.
     
  7. Ecossaise Senior Member

    English
    I agree - the Waffen-SS had direct loyalty to Adolf Hitler; the Wehrmacht soldiers had loyalty to the nation.
     
  8. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    As the sentence stands, I would take it to mean that both the Waffen-SS soldiers and the Wermacht soldiers swore loyalty to Hitler. If the writer wanted to express that, in contrast, the Wermacht soldiers swore an oath to their country he should have written "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as the Wehrmacht soldiers did."
    Either the writer means "a) The Wermacht soldiers swore an oath to Adolf Hitler." or he has made a serious error.
     
  9. dunescratcheur Senior Member

    France 30
    France, English
    It's that second comma.

    With it A)
    Without it B)
     
  10. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    Just a small correction; your option "c)" should read "both are possible". See my post above for my answer to your question.
     
  11. KnightMove

    KnightMove Senior Member

    German/Austria
    Thx for your answer, liliput, but please can you explain which rule of English language does define your answer? I'm sure to never have learned such a rule.
     
  12. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    Looking for rules in English language often leads to disappointment, and I'm not sure I can give you one here. I will try to explain how I understand each construction:

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as did the Wehrmacht soldiers."
    This means "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler rather than to their country, and so did the Wehrmacht soldiers."

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as the Wehrmacht soldiers did."
    This means ""The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, which is what the Wehrmacht soldiers did."

    I think this is partly because with "as + subject + verb" "as" indicates "in the same way as". The meaning is slightly different with "as + verb + subject".
    I agree with dunescratcheur that there is also a problem with the second comma, indeed this was my first thought before realizing that "did" was also in the wrong place.
    If we assume that the Wehrmacht soldiers swore an oath to the country, and the Waffen-SS swore an oath to Hitler then it should be written as follows:
    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country as the Wehrmacht soldiers did."
    On reflection, the second comma, is indeed the biggest problem, as
    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country as did the Wehrmacht soldiers." also works, although it's slightly more ambiguous than my preferred sentence.

    An altogether less ambiguous way would be "In contrast to/Unlike the Wehrmacht soldiers, who swore an oath to their country, the Waffen-SS swore an oath to Hitler."

    I may have waffled a bit in my attempt to clarify, but I hope this helps.
     
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I think much of any trouble about this stems from using an as clause, rather than like or unlike, which avoids the second verb. Do you find my suggestions in post 5 ambiguous, Lilliput? Dangerous question, but I'm only interested in a frank answer.
     
  14. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    Not at all. Indeed, I used "Unlike" as an alternative in one of my examples.
     
  15. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English

    "The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as did the Wehrmacht soldiers."

    If the voice places a lot of stress on Adolf Hitler, then glides over "rather than their country", pauses, the continues with equal stressing of the last 5 words, that would give the impression that both organisations took the same oath.

    If "to their country" is stressed, then the impression would be that two different oaths were involved.
     

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