The dangling participle – a language myth?

ENG-Leiden-imageArticle written by Carmen Ebner based on an article in the latest issue of English Today

In our research project Bridging the Unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public at Leiden University we would like to encourage a critical discussion of so-called usage problems between the three involved groups. What constitutes a usage problem, however, is not always an question with an easy and straightforward answer.

In my English Today feature I am discussing the dangling participle, which is often said to cause ambiguity and misunderstandings due to the lack of a suitable subject in the participle clause. I have conducted an online questionnaire which includes an example of the dangling participle. The results of this survey show that the acceptability of using the dangling participle has increased in comparison to an earlier study conducted by W.H. Mittins and his colleagues at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1960s. By discussing a few of responses my informants in detail, I am trying to highlight the role context plays in deciding on the acceptability of the dangling participle.

What do you think? Do you think context can make up for the lack of a suitable subject? Or do you condemn the dangler openly and strongly? Find out more about the dangling participle in my feature. To join the discussion, visit our blog and fill in the online questionnaire.

Read the full article ‘The dangling participle – a language myth?’ here

Read more about the collaboration between English Today and Bridging the Unbridgeable here

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