3

Russia is the northernmost large and populous country in the world; much of it is cold and/or dry.

Although it is a very simple sentence, I am at my wit's end with the phrase northernmost large and populous. Russia is without a doubt the northenmost country; and it is also the largest country in the world but what does it mean northernmost large and populous? Is northenmost in this sentence adjective or adverb?

7

Let's try bracketing it:

Russia is the northernmost [ large and populous country ] in the world.

As written, it appears to mean:

  1. Russia belongs to the set of countries that are both large and populous.
  2. Out of this set, Russia is the one that is the furthest north.

It's grammatical and I suppose it even makes sense, but it's a bit awkward.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    This is right; but the claim is dubious. Both Canada and Greenland extend farther north. Russia is the largest country in the world, by area; but Canada is the second largest, and Greenland the twelfth. By population Russia is the 7th largest of the world's 242 countries/dependencies, while Greenland, is the 36th smallest. But Canada, with about a quarter of Russia's population, is 36th;I would count Canada as both large and populous. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 24 '14 at 22:09
  • 1
    I expect that the author means by "populous" "at least as populous as any of the major European powers, such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, or Italy." In other words, at least 50 million people. – Jasper Sep 25 '14 at 1:45
2

The concept that's being breached here is called "parallelism." It's a part of grammar, not just idiom, so I think that the author's sentence may actually be grammatically incorrect. Here's another example of parallelism in action:

Today, we went biking, surfing, and kayaking. Notice that each verb is a single word with an -ing suffix.

Today, we went out to bike, then surfed, and went kayaking. This isn't as awkward as the sentence about Russia, but it's still incorrect because the three verb phrases are inconsistent.

Russia is the northernmost large and populous country in the world; much of it is cold and/or dry. Parallelism is broken here because "northernmost" is a superlative while "large" and "populous" are both regular adjectives. If he would have said "northernmost, largest and most populous" it would be in parallel, although factually incorrect.

| improve this answer | |
0

I think this may be an error on the author's part.

As written by author, the sentence is trying to merge these three statements:

  • Russia is the northernmost country in the world.
  • Russia is a large country (in the world?).
  • Russia is a populous country (in the world?).

The first statement is comparing Russia to other countries (it is more north than all other countries). The second is just stating that Russia is large. The third is just stating that Russia is populous.

The way it is written, I think the author is trying to merge these three statements:

  • Russia is the northernmost country in the world.
  • Russia is the largest country in the world.
  • Russia is the most populous country in the world.

These might be better phrased as:

Russia is the northernmost, largest, and most populous country in the world; much of it is cold and/or dry.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for your response. I agree with you except for the part that Russia is the most populous country. It is China that is the most populous country in the world. – bart-leby Sep 24 '14 at 21:09
  • @bart-leby True. I was simply trying to infer the intent based on original sentence. That is also why I put "(in the world?)". My personal opinion is that the author tried to fit too much information into one sentence. Whether the statements are factual is technically outside the scope of this part of the site. – Tory Sep 24 '14 at 21:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.