This is the sentence in question from The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky by James McGilvray:

Evidence for both kinds of modularity comes from the independence one from the other of the various modules, as seen most clearly in double dissociation.

Which appears in this context below:

[...] there are two different notions of modularity: one according to which the language faculty is a module of the mind, distinct from moral judgment, music, and mathematics; another according to which the language module itself divides up into submodules, relating to sound, structure, and meaning. Evidence for both kinds of modularity comes from the independence one from the other of the various modules, as seen most clearly in double dissociation.

At the outset my reading is there is a missing "of" between "independence" and "one", but when I tried to look closer I felt that this "one from the other" is standing alone not without a reason, so I went on to search Linggle, SKELL and COCA, which, with considerable hits, yielded such results as:

Arden Green was a sprawling place, kitchen and garden far removed one from the other.
Both cases offer a unique experience one from the other.
places during her life, none of them seemed too different, one from the other.
These categories were said to be wholly distinct one from the other.
Women are all different one from the other.

These examples strike me as evidence that "one from the other" might be an adverbial phrase in its own right, pointing to the possibility that I have found something trivial without realizing I'm reinventing the wheel. Therefore I referred to what dictionaries I have access to like M-W, OED, in whose entries I didn't find what I expected to, be it under "one", "from" or "other". [edit: in the light of the answer provided by @ruakh I found now there's to one the other under one in OED]

It seems now that adverbial "one from the other" exists, though occluded in large measure by its ordinary usage (like differentiate one from the other) in online corpora.

I'm not sure if it means that this is really insignificant and cannot be counted as a full-fledged phrase.

  • You make a lot of good logical points here, but what's your question, exactly? By the literal wording, it sounds like you want someone to evaluate how significant your discovery is, but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
    – gotube
    Nov 3, 2022 at 16:27
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    You're right about it being a phrase unto itself, and could be separated out by commas in this context. This is a fairly advanced linguistics question, and might be better suited to EL&U or Linguistics.SE
    – gotube
    Nov 3, 2022 at 16:31
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    @gotube Thanks. My motivation to ask about it is the fact that this phrase is apparently in use, but not in dictionary. I felt its not being in a dictionary might mean I'm missing something here, so I sought confirmation. I'll consider moving this question, now that I learned from your advice how more exactly ELL and EL&U differ, one from the other.
    – magni
    Nov 4, 2022 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


"One from the other" is an instance of the construction "one <preposition> the other", which is quite formal IMHO, and usually means the same thing as "<preposition> each other" or "<preposition> one another". (That is its meaning in all of the examples you've found.) Like most prepositional phrases, it can be either adjectival or adverbial, as appropriate.

Some examples with other prepositions include:

None smiled; but all were sore perplexed, and looked one to the other in deep tribulation for counsel. —Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, Chapter VII.

There was a deference, a waiting one for the other, a gentle courtesy of behavior, that was remarkable, considering that all were allowed to join freely in the conversation. —Caroline A. Watters, in Journal of Education, January 1906

As unto the bow the cord is, / So unto the man is woman: / Though she bends him, she obeys him; / Though she draws him, yet she follows: / Useless one without the other. —an abridged version of Hiawatha, I can't tell by whom

(For that matter, Google also finds some examples with no preposition, where the other is the direct object: "they sought one the other at the meetings" and "they greeted one the other" and so on.)

This use of "one" and "the other" is actually pretty common even outside of this construction, at least in the case where there are only two people/things/whatever — I bet that you wouldn't have batted an eye at something like "You never see one without the other" — and, conversely, the same construction is also sometimes used with other expressions instead of "one" and "the other", such as:

So did they secretly talk as they looked each man at his neighbour: […] —H. B. Cotterill, Homer's Odyssey

They cried each man to his idol, […] —William King Tweedle, Man by Nature and by Grace: Or, Lessons from the Book of Jonah

Will you be loyal each to the other as the one only man and the one only woman of your choice? —Walter Lorenzo Sheldon, marriage vows

By the way, going back to your original example:

Evidence for both kinds of modularity comes from the independence one from the other of the various modules, as seen most clearly in double dissociation.

it may be worth explaining that the phrase "of the various modules" is also modifying "the independence". I think the meaning is much easier to pick up if we rephrase that part:

Evidence for both kinds of modularity comes from the various modules' independence from each other, as seen most clearly in double dissociation.

  • Thanks for your very detailed and helpful exposition. By the way, the "by the way" part is making me think if there is a maximal distance for an "of" phrase (or a relative clause) to be removed from its noun head, without obscuring the meaning of the sentence.
    – magni
    Dec 5, 2022 at 8:13
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    @magni: You're welcome! I don't think there's a hard limit, but rather, it depends on what's in between. I don't think you'd have difficulty with a sentence like "It was a city of women and of men, of parents and of children, of friends and of lovers, of doctors and lawyers and bakers and craftsmen, of robbers and murderers and thieves; a city, in short, like any other."
    – ruakh
    Dec 5, 2022 at 9:16

The phrase *"one from the other", is adjectival and is specifying that the independence is with other, related, modules, and not modules globally, or anything else.

In the sentence "he took one from the other", 'one' is the direct object and 'other' is the indirect object. The phrase 'one from the other' is doing something completely different.

  • Thanks. But I cannot wrap my head around the example sentence above Women are all different one from the other. if the latter four words are functioning as an adjective, and not an adverb modifying different.
    – magni
    Nov 3, 2022 at 12:22
  • Yes, in that fragment, the one from the other means that women are different to each other, as opposed to being different from, for example, men.
    – PRL75
    Nov 3, 2022 at 12:25
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    @magni The phrase "one from the other" does not adjectivally modify "independence", but indicates how the word is to be interpreted since it has more than one possible meaning. It makes no sense, for instance to say, * "the one-from-the-other independence" as if that's a type of independence. The meaning is adverbial.
    – gotube
    Nov 3, 2022 at 16:36

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