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Other studies, including in the United States, have shown this same pattern, with girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

Without context, are there two meaning? :

  1. Girls are vulnerable to depression in adolescence.
  2. Peers are vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

Put another way: if sentence is

There are girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

then is there ambiguity which group is vulnerable to depression in adolescence?

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There are girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

Yes, I suppose that could be parsed in one of two ways:

There are girls who begin developing earlier than (their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence).

or:

There are girls (who begin developing earlier than their peers) vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

In the first case, the sentence would seem to almost imply that depression might delay development. In the second case, it would seem to almost imply that early development could be the cause of the depression.

Both interpretations would be grammatical.

Other studies have shown this same pattern, with girls who begin developing earlier than their peers vulnerable to depression in adolescence.

Both meanings are possible when this phrase occurs after the word with as well.

However, there is a bit of a fallacy in your question:

Without context, are there two meanings?

Yes, without context, we could come up with two meanings. Thankfully, though, we usually do have context. Therefore, the study previously talked about presumably provides enough context that the intended meaning is apparent.

As a footnote, I'm guessing that it's the second meaning that applies: girls who develop early are vulnerable to depression.

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  • I disagree. You didn't mention the first sentence needs two commas for the relative clause for the second interpretation. I don't think the sentence could be interpreted in two ways unless it is written or understood by someone who doesn't know anything about how commas work in English. – user24743 Jun 9 '16 at 18:25
  • I think commas can help with the ambiguity problem, but I also think that Rathony's position is a bit overstated, particularly when it comes to transcribed speech. – J.R. Jun 9 '16 at 19:11
  • @J.R.What kind of source did you use to guess that the second meaning has more possibility to translate?, even when a adjective (participle) is more likely to modify adjacent noun. I guess you could do because of 'than'? – inches Jun 10 '16 at 2:57
  • @inches - It just seems more likely to me that a study would be trying to link depression as a result of early development rather than depression as a cause of late development. So my guess is based on context rather than grammar. – J.R. Jun 10 '16 at 8:27
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Let's say there are two groups of girls, one group develops (grows) faster (than the other group) and reaches puberty at 13 and the other does at 15.

The sentence is comparing these two groups in terms of which group is more likely to suffer from depression in adolescence. It could be rephrased to

Other studies, including (those studies done) in the United States, have shown this same pattern, with girls who reach puberty at 13 more vulnerable to depression in adolescence than those who reach puberty at 15.

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  • you mean : Other studies, including in the United States, have shown this same pattern, with girls who begin developing earlier than their peers (which is) vulnerable to depression in adolescence. and there are so comparative 'earlier' that it has never two meaning? – inches Jun 7 '16 at 16:29
  • @inches The pattern is "the earlier girls develop, the more likely they will suffer from depression (than those who develop more slowly) in adolescence. – user24743 Jun 7 '16 at 16:30
  • I know meaning of sentence already. but I want to make sure that why there are only one meaning. so you mean because of semantic reason not grammatical reason, there is one meaning.? – inches Jun 7 '16 at 16:38
  • @inches If you know the meaning of the sentence, how can you ask if there are two meanings? If you understand the "with + subject + adjective (participle)" construction, there is no way that you can ask the question. Do you understand the construction? – user24743 Jun 7 '16 at 16:41
  • Thank you I didn't know the "with + subject + adjective (participle)" construction. – inches Jun 7 '16 at 16:53
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Not necessarily.

In either sentence, either girls or peers could be the vulnerable ones.

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  • You need to explain why and how these two sentences could be interpreted in two ways. You need to note that one-liner answer is discouraged on Stack Exchange. – user24743 Jun 9 '16 at 19:34

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