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use of an unspecified value, or other behavior where this International Standard provides two or more possibilities and imposes no further requirements on which is chosen in any instance

This sentence is in C99 which is the official documentation written by ANSI about a programming language. So I think this sentence won't wrong. But on which is chosen in any instance looks awkward. I have known when a preposition relative pronoun is used, following sentence should be a full(complete) sentence. But a subject is omitted.

How should I interpret this sentence and is it grammatically correct?

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  • It's not a sentence, it's a noun phrase (referring to the use of values which are not uniquely / unambiguously mandated by the standard). Effectively, it's talking about contexts where you can't just refer to the standard to find the one-and-only "correct" value for some variable / parameter (i.e. - where you the programmer have at least some degree of choice). Looking at the full context, the entirety of the cited text constitutes a "definition" of the term (noun phrase) unspecified behaviour. Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 14:54
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica OK. It's a noun phrase as your saying. But my use of full sentence means that is chosen in any instance should originally be a full sentence. we have different point of view. And now I understand that noun phrase regardless of this topic. Thanks for your comment.
    – op ol
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:00
  • Syntactically speaking, both the adverbial preposition clauses on which is chosen and in any instance are optional - that's to say both (in either sequence), either, or neither could be included. But neither of those two elements are particularly relevant to the concept of "sentence". Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:28
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    What you said is the fact. And I understand two of your comment. But our points of focus is still different. I guess the way my country explain this syntax is differ from yours or my word choice is strictly wrong. But I can confidently say the fact is that what we are talking about is nothing to do with the essentials of my question.
    – op ol
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:43
  • If given a sentence the hotel at which I stayed, you said the hotel at which I stayed is a sentence. And I said I stayed is a sentence. This is the difference between us.
    – op ol
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:51

1 Answer 1

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C99's definition of "undefined behavior":

use of an unspecified value, or other behavior where this International Standard provides two or more possibilities and imposes no further requirements on which is chosen in any instance

Yes, it is correct. (It is not a complete sentence on its own. It's a definition. It becomes a complete sentence if preceded with the words "Undefined behaviour is the".)

You can understand "requirements on" as "requirements concerning" or "requirements about".

You can understand "which" as "which one" or "which one of the possibilities" or "which possibility".

It means that the Standard imposes no further requirements on which possibility is chosen [by the implementer of the Standard] (out of the two or more possibilities provided).

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  • Now I fully understand what the sentence says. I feel happy!! I get one more question. A person that English is his first language can easily understand that sentence with no any difficulty?? I got it but still the sentence seems awkward because of the omitting a subject. Thanks for your great article.
    – op ol
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 14:42
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    The only reason it's an incomplete sentence is because it's a definition of "unspecified behavior". If you add at the start of the sentence (before "use of") the words "Unspecified behavior is the", then it's a complete sentence. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's easy to read. These technical documents are worded in a very formal way and tend to contain a lot of jargon. The average person will have to read the sentence quite carefully.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 14:45
  • @OldBrixtonian I agree that it has no main verb without my "is" (and I recently edited my answer to clarify that it isn't a complete sentence as it stands), but it's a definition. It is perfectly normal for definitions not to be complete sentences. You see the same thing in almost any dictionary or glossary. You have to supply "X is..." at the start if you want a complete sentence. You're right, though, "without imposing" (etc) would probably be clearer.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:39
  • @rjpond It has no main verb without your "is". International Standard, should probably be moved to its own short sentence. in any instance is redundant. The last part: and imposes no further requirements on which is chosen in any instance. might be better written: without (ever) imposing any further requirements as to which is chosen. The two Anglo-Saxon words "without" and "ever" do much to relieve the tedium of Latinate ones. I'm not sure adding another "unspecified" helps but it's probably what the original writer would do! I'm sure you've got the meaning right. Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:40
  • @rjpond [Sorry - I messed up the order by editing mine as you were replying!] Ah! It's a definition! I didn't know. That explains it. (It's still horrid English though!) Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 15:46

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