Odd sentence in the New York Times

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue May 22 16:10:45 UTC 2007

On May 21, 2007, at 9:37 AM, Marc Sacks wrote:

> In an article in today's Times, "After Aiding Bill on Immigration,
> Employers Balk," I found this oddity:
> "Besides revamping visa preferences, the bill would also offer legal
> status to most of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants and would
> increase the penalties for businesses that employ them."
> Why would the government want to increase the penalties, or impose
> any at
> all, on businesses that employ immigrants with legal status? This
> probably
> means penalties for employing illegal immigrants *after* the point at
> which many have become legal, but it's not at all clear from the
> sentence.

yes, another anaphora glitch  (i posted a few days on an anaphora
glitch in an atul gawande column in the NYT).  "them" is likely to be
understood as picking out, as its discourse referent, the majority of
the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants (who would be offered
legal status), while the writer's intention must have been to refer
to illegal immigrants in general.  the only easy fix for this would
be to use a full NP ("illegal immigrants") rather than the pronoun.


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