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Question: Is the following sentence idiomatic?

[B] Among the most significant challenges can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program.


Details:

This is related to my other question here. This is from the same source: Employment Insurance: Next Steps on the Road to Renewal (page 2, second paragraph).

... Canada’s social infrastructure is crumbling. But there are cracks in the foundation and signs of neglect throughout ...

Short term fixes have been favoured over major renovations, deferring costs but not escaping consequences. A 2015 inspection by the Mowat Centre pointed out the “large gaps that now threaten the well-being and economic prosperity of Canadians.” Among the most significant challenges can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program. {Let's call this sentence "B"}

I don't understand B. This sentence seems to be missing something essential. For example, a complete sentence would read like this:

(a) Among the most significant challenges [identified in the 2015 study], some can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program.

or

(b) Among [the large gaps* identified in the 2015 study], the most significant challenges can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program.

Is sentence B correct?

I can't bring myself to believe this is a writing error. The acknowledgement section mentions how the paper was reviewed and that there were editors - "Editing assistance from Sally McBeth (Clear Language and Design) was invaluable."

*Does anyone feel this "large gaps" term is just very irritating?

  • I'd asked a very similar question before. And you may find it useful. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/144440/… – dan Nov 7 '19 at 11:44
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    The sentence might be paraphrased as One of the most significant challenges is the one that can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program. – dan Nov 7 '19 at 11:49
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You're absolutely correct. The sentence is poorly written. When we say, 'Among a group of things...' we expect to then hear about some subset of the things in the group. Your examples are good, given the context of the piece. I also see a way it could be corrected by inserting the word 'these' and a comma in the right place.

A 2015 inspection by the Mowat Centre pointed out the “large gaps that now threaten the well-being and economic prosperity of Canadians.” Among these, the most significant challenges can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program.

Even editors make mistakes sometimes. I find egregious grammatical mistakes in professional journalism all the time now, particularly in speaking, but also in print. It's worse than it was even fifteen years ago.

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This is an interesting case. When I first read it, I didn't see anything wrong with it, but then when I read it more carefully, I concurred with you that there is something wrong with it:

"Among the most significant challenges" and "in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program" are both prepositional phrases, and either one could have modified "found": "Among the most significant challenges can be found Canada’s Employment Insurance Program" and "The most significant challenges can be found in Canada’s Employment Insurance Program" are both grammatically correct. Sentence B, however, mashes those two sentences up into something that is not grammatically coherent; by putting both noun phrases "the most significant challenges" and "Canada’s Employment Insurance Program" into prepositional phrases, we are left with two prepositional phrases trying to modify "found" and no noun phrases to be the subject of "can".

So for your literal question, is it arguably "idiomatic", as I would expect an English speaker to parse it into a coherent thought, and quite possibly not be conscious that they are having to engage in some interpretation to do so. However, it is not grammatically correct.

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  • I love the grammatical approach to answering this question! – dwilli Nov 8 '19 at 5:53
  • @Acccumulation Thanks for the answer. Did you mean to write this "Among the most significant challenges can be found Canada’s Employment Insurance Program" in the second paragraph? It does not seem grammatical. It seems incomplete. – AIQ Nov 10 '19 at 6:42
  • @dwilli Hi, sorry to bug you, can you please take a look at my comment to Acccumulation above. I have a feeling they missed something there. – AIQ Nov 11 '19 at 0:10
  • No worries, @AIQ. Thanks for asking. I think Accumulation is actually correct. It's more clear if you switch the word order around to, 'Canada's Employment Insurance Program can be found among the most significant challenges'. In other words, the insurance program is one of the most significant challenges. Does that make sense? – dwilli Nov 11 '19 at 0:21

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