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From NPR News: North Korea Opens Marathon To All Runners,

Lately we've heard about the wonders of basketball diplomacy. Running could be the next thing for North Korea. The Pyongyang Marathon celebrates the birth of the fearless leader who founded the country. For nearly three decades it's been for elite athletes only. Now North Korea's marathon is open to everyone. The runners start at Kim Il-sung Stadium and they end there too, offering no chance to run for the border.

The first time I listened to it, I didn't feel anything wrong. So, the meaning is not the problem. However, once I noted it down sentence by sentence, I got stuck on the last sentence, the part offering no chance ... . It made me question myself "'Who' is offering?" The runners? The Stadium? The ending there? Or the whole [The runners start ... end there too]?

Pedantically speaking, is the last sentence in the passage grammatical?
Is the participial phrase (offering no chance ...) an apposition?
Or is it a "dangling participle"?

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    I'd "fix" this sentence as: The runners start an Kim Il-sung Stadium and they end there too; a route offering no chance to run for the border. – Jim Jan 27 '14 at 2:09
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This is indeed a 'dangling participle', i.e. a participle that does not seem to modify that which it is supposed to modify. It is considered a grammatical and/or stylistic error by most.

Normally, a participle modifies the subject of the sentence; sometimes it can modify another noun (phrase) later in the sentence. But neither the subject, the runners, nor the stadium can be taken as a 'head' noun that is modified by the participle: it dangles in the air. However, the participle presumably modifies the marathon from the sentence before, in a jocular manner (the marathon does not offer athletes a chance to run for the border).

  • Or, rather, perhaps we can consider the participial phrase just modifies the entire sentence it is attached to. – nohat Jan 28 '14 at 8:36
  • @nohat: I don't know, would that work? If I try to convert it into an equivalent sentence with a relative clause, I'm not sure I like the result: The runners start at Kim Il-sung Stadium and they end there too, [which fact offers] no chance to run for the border. I think it would make more sense to interpret the participial "subject" as being something in the toptical/discourse space, like the general topic of the paragraph (the celebrations) or a specific word in an earlier sentence (the marathon). – Cerberus Jan 28 '14 at 12:17
  • hmm. Both the original forumulation "The runners start at Kim Il-sung Stadium and they end there too, offering no chance to run for the border" and one with which "The runners start at Kim Il-sung Stadium and they end there too, which offers no chance to run for the border" sound find to me. I mean, under careful scrutiny of the syntax I can see the dangling participle, but I think there's a reason people utter and hear such utterances so frequently without comment—the extant grammatical analysis is missing something which makes these licit. – nohat Jan 28 '14 at 19:27

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