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There was a section of a news article with heading:

Will the focus on multiple disciplines not dilute the character of single-stream institutions, such as IITs?

From the heading I concluded that it is asking whether the transformation of a single-stream institutes into a multi discipline institute, will it not impact(negatively) the discipline for which the institution was build in the first place.

IITs are engineering institutes, so if humanities get included in the IITs then will not this affect the quality of IITs as an engineering institute.

My friend on the other hand do not agree with what I have concluded. He is saying that the heading means the following:

Till now an engineering student only learns about engineering and from now on the students of engineering will also learn about different subjects, so will this dilute the capability of a student as an engineer?

My friend pointed out the article following the heading that see here the director is saying that an engineering student must learn about different fields.

Both of us cannot be correct so please clarify the doubt on whether I or my friend is correct.

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  • @WeatherVane Sir I am just asking the meaning of the heading. Me and my friend were opposing each other and so what I thought the meaning is and what my friend thought, I have included in my question.
    – Singh
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 14:50
  • @WeatherVane Sir it will be really helpful if you post an answer with your explaining. In particular here I am interested in the explicit meaning of the heading.
    – Singh
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 15:01
  • I converted my comments to an answer, but whether it is true that offering other courses will dilute the character of those institutions is off-topic here. You and your friend seem to be having a difference of opinion on that matter. Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 15:15

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You are correct. The headline asks if this change will "dilute the character of single-stream institutions", not whether it will dilute the capability of students.

It may be that diluting the character of the institution will lead to diluting the capabilities of students. But that's a question of real-world facts, not of grammar. There are many statements I could make that are grammatically correct but factually false, or that have implications beyond the plain words of the sentence. Like if I said, "Roger Smith entered the room", the sentence, as a sentence, says only that a person named Roger Smith was not in the room before and he is in the room now. If you know who Roger Smith is and what this room is and who else is in the room, there may be all sorts of implications to that sentence. But if someone asked, "Does this sentence say that Roger Smith had an argument with Fred Miller?", the answer is clearly no. Maybe in the real world, Mr Smith entering this room would inevitably lead to an argument with Mr Miller. But that's not what the sentence says.

In this case, the sentence asks if the character of the institutions will change. Exactly what that means and what implications that has are beyond the scope of the grammar of the sentence.

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This question in this heading

Will the focus on multiple disciplines not dilute the character of single-stream institutions, such as IITs?

can be rephrased as

Won't the focus on multiple disciplines dilute the character of single-stream institutions, such as IITs?

which makes it a reasonably clear question. The asker supposes that broadening the courses on offer will result in the dilution of the character of those institutions.

Please note the similar phrasing in The Merchant of Venice

Do we not bleed?"

Meaning

Don't we bleed [like other people]?

Questions are sometimes phrased that way for emphasis, as though the answer is a foregone conclusion, as in a rhetorical question.

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To begin with, the question as posed is in what is sometimes called "accusatory mode". This is used when the questioner unnecessarily complicates a question with a negative. It suggests strongly that the questioner has concerns about the expected answer. For instance, if you say, "I'm going to operate this switch.", and someone asks, "Will that turn off the lights?", it's a simple question. If they ask, "Won't that turn off the lights?" it means that they expect that it will and perhaps you shouldn't do it. So the headline asks if changing the curriculum will dilute the character of some degress, and simultaneously suggests both that it will and that this is a bad idea, or at least something which needs careful consideration. The body of the article claims that broadening the curriculum is a good thing. The headline is both describing the article and disagreeing with it, or at least sounding a cautionary note. So you and your friend are not making contradictory claims. Rather, the article is saying one thing (your friend is right) but the headline is saying something else (you are right). The two are not the same thing.

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