Q1. If someone says "Bob is a father of a singer who is tall.", can it mean both of the following?

  1. Bob is a tall father of a singer.

  2. Bob is a father of a tall singer.

Q2. If someone says "As a father of a singer, who is tall, Bob is ....", can it imply both of the two suggested interpretations above?

Aside from these two main questions, a related side question of mine is, is there a word for expressions of the form "A of B"? I don't know what to put in search engines when I have questions about such expressions.


Technically, "Bob is a father of a singer who is tall" is ambiguous and it is not clear whether it is Bob who is tall, or the singer (Bob's child). I think most people would interpret the sentence as expressing that the singer is tall, since if you wanted "tall" to apply to Bob, you would probably instead say something simpler like "Bob is tall and is the father of a singer".

(Note also you would usually use the definite article and say "the father of a singer", since a singer can only have one father.)

I am not sure about your Q2. Something looks wrong with the way you have the commas, but I cannot put my finger on it.

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  • Q1: I would do a double-take, but end up parsing it as #2. Q2: Yes, it is ambiguous. Taking out the first comma would make it unambiguously mean #2. But to make it unambiguously mean #1, you would have to rephrase it. So you might as well use #1 itself. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 19 '15 at 3:48

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